Boyfriend says Casey Anthony never told him of abuse

Reuters News
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Posted: May 26, 2011 8:38 PM
Boyfriend says Casey Anthony never told him of abuse

By Barbara Liston

ORLANDO (Reuters) - The former boyfriend of accused murderer Casey Anthony denied on Thursday that she ever told him her father molested her.

Tony Lazzaro, who was dating Casey when her 2-year-old daughter died in June 2008, said her description of her relationship with George Anthony "definitely was not sexual abuse."

"Hitting is all I can remember," Lazzaro said. "To my knowledge, it sounded like discipline to me."

The ex-boyfriend's testimony appeared to be a blow to the defense trial strategy in Casey Anthony's first-degree murder case.

The 25-year-old Florida woman faces the death penalty if convicted of charges that she killed her daughter on June 16, 2008, by wrapping the toddler's face and head three times with duct tape and dumping her body in woods near the Anthony home.

Earlier this week, defense attorney Jose Baez told jurors the Casey was sexually molested by her father as a child.

Baez said that abuse explained her "bizarre" behavior, including carefree partying and shopping sprees, after daughter Caylee Anthony's death.

Lazzaro was called to testify on Thursday out of the presence of the jury about a "secret" Baez previously told jurors Casey shared with Lazzaro but the judge had refused to let the jury hear.

Lazzaro said Casey did tell him about an incident in the past when another young Anthony relative had tried unsuccessfully to "feel her up" or touch her chest, but did not implicate her father.

During the testimony, George Anthony, who under oath has denied any abuse, and his wife Cindy sat in the back row of the Orlando courtroom. As court adjourned, Casey and Cindy looked across the room and held each other's gaze.

Afterward, Baez kept walking and did not respond to a question by Reuters about whether Lazzaro's testimony had damaged the defense's case.

'SUCH A GOOD LIAR'

Caylee Anthony was not reported missing until July 15, 2008, a month after she died. After finding Casey's car in an impound lot, Cindy Anthony called 911 and famously told the dispatcher the trunk smelled like a dead body.

The defense contends George Anthony found Caylee drowned in the family's backyard pool on June 16 but no one reported the accident.

More prosecution witnesses on Thursday described Casey as emotionally unchanged after Caylee's death. Friends and Lazzaro have described how Casey told them Caylee was on a variety of outings with a nanny or a baby sitter.

Prosecutors said Casey lied to her mother that she and Caylee were in Tampa and Jacksonville.

An acquaintance, Melissa England, said Casey took a phone call on a shopping trip, then tossed her cell phone on the dashboard and said, "Oh my God, I am such a good liar."

Sitting at the defense table, Casey shook her head and mouthed the word "no."

Both George Anthony and Lazzaro testified they smelled gas fumes but no odor of decay when Casey opened her car trunk in their presence a week after Caylee's death.

But a prosecution expert is expected to testify analysis of air from the trunk was consistent with human decomposition.

Such evidence has never before been admitted in a trial, and defense attorneys fought unsuccessfully to keep it out on grounds it is unproven science.

Legal experts have said the issue is a sure-fire point for appeal should Casey be found guilty.

Baez grilled George Anthony about duct tape on a gas can he kept in a shed, one of the same cans that had been in Casey's trunk.

The tape is important: It is the same distinctive brand found wrapped around Caylee's skull when her remains were located December 11, 2008, and connects the killer to the Anthony home.

George said he believed he taped a hole in the can to keep fumes from escaping after Casey lost a cap. He denied Baez's suggestion he placed tape on the can knowing it would become a significant piece of evidence.

Another former boyfriend of Casey's identified a photo that he placed on his MySpace page around March 2008.

The photo, captioned "Win her over ... with Chloroform," shows a man nuzzling a woman and holding a cloth near her face. Ricardo Morales said he thought it was funny at the time.

His posting occurred at about the same time prosecutors say Casey Anthony Googled "chloroform" on her home computer. Prosecution experts are expected to testify that they found evidence of a large amount of chloroform in Casey's car trunk.

(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Jerry Norton)