The Caylee Anthony Case

Crime Files

On 9 August 2005, no one present at the birth of Caylee Anthony, would have predicted that this child would not live to celebrate her third birthday, or that her death would lead to a petition for a new law, forcing parents to notify authorities on the disappearance of a child within 24 hours, called “Caylee’s Law". Casey Marie Anthony was a twenty-two-year-old single mother at the time of her daughter’s death. She was a controversial figure. Her defense team elaborated on her alleged dysfunctional upbringing and alleged sexual abuse by her father. The prosecutors painted her as a promiscuous liar and a party girl who felt encumbered by a toddler. During closing arguments at the trial, the prosecutors showed the jury a photograph of a tattoo Anthony had done two weeks after Caylee was last seen alive. It read: Bella Vita, meaning Beautiful Life. Anthony and her daughter lived with her parents George and Cindy Anthony in Orlando, Florida. No father was listed on Caylee’s birth certificate. George Anthony, father to Casey and grandfather to Caylee and a retired homicide cop, was accused of sexually abusing his daughter. And a woman named Krystal Holloway alleged she had had an affair with George, and that he had told her Caylee’s death was an accident. George denied all the accusations. A month after Caylee’s body was found, in January 2009, George went missing. He was found at a beach hotel after sending messages to his family threatening suicide. Cindy Anthony, a retired registered nurse and Anthony’s mother, testified she had run a search on their home computer on chloroform during March 2008, but during the trial the prosecution pointed out that records showed she was at work when these searches were logged. She was not charged with perjury. Cindy allegedly called her daughter a sociopath and a liar. Relations between daughter and parents deteriorated after Anthony’s incarceration. Casey Anthony alleged that babysitter Zenaida Fernandez-Gonzales had kidnapped Caylee. Zenaida Fernandez-Gonzales was listed as a visitor to the apartment block on 16 June 2008, but she had never met the Anthonys in her life. Due to Anthony’s lies, Zenaida had lost her job and was evicted. She also received many threats against her own life and those of her six children. Zenaida is suing Anthony for defamation of character.

Timeline

9 August 2005  Caylee Marie Anthony’s birthMarch 2008  Computer searches regarding chloroform on Anthony home computer15 June 2008  Caylee last seen alive at great-grandfather’s residence16 June 2008  Anthony and Caylee leave the family home27 June 2008      Anthony and friend Tony Lazzaro seen at nightclub after she dumped the car that day15 July 2008       George retrieves Pontiac car smelling of decomposition16 July 2008       Cindy reports Caylee missing for 31 days16 July 2008       Anthony arrested for the first time11 August 2008   Roy Kronk reports something suspicious in the woods21 August 2008   Anthony released on bond29 August 2008   Anthony re-arrested on cheque fraud30 August 2008   Texas EquuSearch commences5 September 2008   Anthony released on bail, bond paid by parents15 September 2008  Anthony turns herself in due to more cheque fraud16 September 2008 Anthony released on bond14 October 2008   Anthony charged with first degree murder, child abuse, manslaughter and lying to the police15 October 2008 Judge ordered she be held without bond28 October 2008  Anthony pleads not guilty11 December 2008  Caylee’s body is discoveredJanuary 2010   Anthony pleads guilty to 13 cases of unrelated check fraud24 May 2011 Trial commences5 July 2011  Anthony found not guilty on all charges except for four relating to providing false statements to the police7 July 2011  Anthony sentenced17 July 2011  Anthony releasedAugust 2011  Anthony reportedly serving probation for the cheque fraud in an undisclosed location in Florida

The Arrest

Anthony was arrested on 16 July 2008, the day after Caylee was reported missing. She was charged with giving false statements, child neglect and obstruction of criminal investigation. At first she was denied bail, then on 22 July 2008, her bail bond was set at $500 000.In the meantime on 11, 12 and 13 August, meter reader Roy Kronk alerted the police to a suspicious object found in a wooded area near the Anthony residence. Officers did eventually accompany him to the forest where he claimed he had seen a skull, but they found nothing. It is alleged officers were reluctant to enter the swamp area due to snakes.Anthony’s bond was posted on 20 August 2008 by bounty hunter Leonard Padilia, in the hope of her assisting in finding Caylee’s body. Anthony was released the following day. But her freedom was short lived when she was re-arrested on 29 August, for an unrelated cheque fraud case.On 5 September 2008, Anthony was released when her parents posted her bond and she was fitted with electronic tracking device. Three days later protesters outside the Anthony family home chanter “baby killer”. On 15 September she turned herself in again over an additional cheque fraud charge, but her bond of $ 1 250.00 was paid and she was released the next day.A month later, on 14 October 2008, she was indicted on charges of first degree murder aggravated child abuse, aggravated manslaughter of a child, four counts of providing false information to the police. The judge ordered that Anthony be held again, without bond. A week later the charge of child neglect was dropped. She pleaded not guilty on all counts. Caylee was still missing and no body had been found.This changed when on 11 December 2008, when Kronk again called the police and this time they found the body of a child in a rubbish bag. Duct tape was sticking to the skull. A Winnie the Pooh blanket that matched Caylee’s bedding at home and a laundry bag were also found at the scene. Eight days later, medical examiner Dr Jan Garavaglia identified the body as that of Caylee’s and found the cause of death to be undetermined.

The Investigation

Detective Yuri Melich of the Orange County Sherriff’s Department found several discrepancies in Anthony’s statement. The first was her allegation that Caylee had been kidnapped by a nanny called Zenaida Fernandez-Gonzales and that she had been too scared to report this. The family members told Melich that none of them had ever met Zeniada. Anthony also claimed that she had been working at Universal Orlando Resort, but when detectives took her there, she could not identify her office and admitted that she had been fired five years before.Although Anthony was arrested the day after Caylee was reported missing, it was only five months later that the decomposed body of her daughter was found. The five month delay could have been prevented if the police had reacted more diligently to the reports of a meter reader, who claimed to have seen something suspicious in the forest near the Anthony home, scarcely a month after Caylee’s disappearance.

The Crime

On Father’s Day, 15 June 2008, Anthony took Caylee to visit her grandfather. This was the last day Caylee was seen alive. The following day Anthony left the family home in Orlando for a work assignment in Tampa, taking Caylee with her. She apparently told her friends that Cindy had informed her she wanted her to move out. Anthony moved in with her boyfriend. Whenever Cindy asked to talk to her granddaughter, Anthony made excuses that the child was unavailable or out with her nanny, Zenaida.About a month later, George and Cindy found a notice from the post office, alerting them to a certified letter. George retrieved the letter, which informed him that his daughter's 1998 Pontiac had been towed and was in a car yard. When he went to pick it up, George noticed an awful odor emanating from the boot of the car. He thought it smelled like a decomposing human body. He opened the trunk, but it contained nothing more than a bag of rubbish. The odious smell also alerted Cindy, who had growing suspicions about not being able to reach her granddaughter. She phoned the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and reported Caylee missing. During a 911 call Casey Anthony also reported that Caylee had been missing for the past thirty-one days.

The Trial

The trial commenced on 24 May 2011. The lead prosecutor was assistant state attorney Linda Burdick and the defense was led by Jose Baez. Judge Belvin Perry presided. The prosecution called for a death sentence.The police produced around of four hundred pieces of evidence. The prosecution claimed that Anthony had dosed her daughter with chloroform, covered her mouth with duct tape to suffocate her, kept the body in the trunk of her car for a few days and then disposed of it. The car was found abandoned with the bag of rubbish in the boot, near a dumpster. The prosecution attempted to introduce a new test for the first time which was supposed to prove that the odor was consistent with that of a decomposing human body.

Other evidence included computer searches relating to chloroform and neck breaking. Traces of chloroform were found in Anthony’s car. The prosecution claimed that the motive for the murder was that Caylee had become a burden to Anthony’s life style. Anthony’s reputation came under severe attack, both inside the court and out. She was crucified by the media.The defense retaliated by disputing all the forensic evidence as fantasy and referred to the cheque book prosecution. One of their witnesses, Dr Werner Spitz testified that the duct tape could have been placed on the skull after the body had decomposed and that the crime scene photos had been staged. No evidence of human decomposition could be established in the trunk of the car. Under cross-examination it was put to Roy Kronk that he may have moved the body of Caylee and that he had allegedly claimed that finding the body would make him rich and famous. It was even alleged that Kronk could have killed Caylee.The defense offered an alternative explanation for Caylee’s death: that she had accidently drowned and that Anthony and her father had covered up the accident. Medical examiner Dr Garavaglia ruled out drowning as the cause of death.On 5 July 2011, the jury found Anthony not guilty of first degree murder, aggravated manslaughter and aggravated child abuse. She was found guilty on four counts of providing false information to a police officer. These referred to her lying about her employment, lying about the fictitious babysitter, lying about informing two employees at Universal Studios of Caylee’s disappearance and lying that she had received a call from Caylee on 15 July. Judge Perry sentenced her to one year in jail and a one thousand dollar fine for each of the four counts. Because of time served and credit for good behaviour Casey Anthony was released on 17 July 2011.

The Aftermath

Time Magazine referred to the case as the social-media trial of the century. CNN and NBC set up two-storey air conditioned structures outside the court building. Anthony had posted the following message on MySpace on 7 July 2008: “What is given can be taken away. Everyone lies, everyone dies.” Time Magazine referred to the Twitter account NinthCircuitFL as the most trustworthy, giving live feedback to ardent followers. Posts on Facebook came in too fast to be counted.One newspaper predicted the trial would cost more than that of OJ Simpson. Another headline read: “Monster Mom partying four days after tot dies”. People fought with each other outside the court room to gain access to one of the fifty seats allocated for the public. More than five hundred people waited outside the court room for the verdict and a female news anchor was so upset when she had to read the verdict that her colleagues had to assist her.Members of the jury later indicated that lack of evidence was the reason for the verdict.Besides the civil law suit of Zenaida Fernandez-Gonzales, Anthony is facing suits from the Texas EquuSearch who assisted in the search for Caylee. A Florida judge also ruled that she pay almost $ 250 000.00 to law enforcement agencies for investigation costs.Law makers in four states have begun drafting legislation enforcing parents or guardians to inform authorities of a child’s disappearance within a specific time line. This law is dubbed Caylee’s Law.Some of the letters Anthony wrote when she was incarcerated have been released. In one she writes: “I had a dream not too long ago that I was pregnant. It was like having Cays all over again.”