Casey Anthony told police toddler was kidnapped

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 01, 2011 7:58 PM
Casey Anthony told police toddler was kidnapped

By Barbara Liston

ORLANDO (Reuters) - In a calm, confident voice, accused child killer Casey Anthony told investigators on July 16, 2008 that her 2-year-old daughter Caylee had been kidnapped by her nanny, according to a taped statement played Wednesday for jurors.

A detective could be heard on the tape offering Casey the opportunity to rescind and change her statement.

"This is the truth. It's the story I'm going to stick with, yes," Casey said on the recording.

The 25-year-old mother is on trial in Orlando, Florida, on a first-degree murder charge and faces the death penalty if convicted.

Casey's taped statement about what happened to Caylee is at odds with the account offered by her own defense attorney during opening statements last week.

Defense attorney Jose Baez said Caylee accidentally drowned in the Anthony family's backyard pool but no one reported the death.

Prosecutors contend Casey killed the toddler because she wanted to "live the good life," unburdened by the responsibilities of motherhood.

Caylee's skeletal remains were found after a five-month search in woods near the Anthony home. Duct tape wrapped three times around Caylee's skull, mouth and nose was the only evidence indicating cause of death, according to prosecutors.

Hours before talking to detectives, Casey first told the kidnapping story to her older brother Lee Anthony.

BROTHER PUSHED FOR DETAILS

Lee, 28, testified on Wednesday that he was summoned to the Anthony family home on July 15, 2008 after his parents found Casey's car at an impound lot suffused with an odor they likened to human decomposition. Lee said he also noted a "very potent, very strong" smell permeating the garage where his parents parked Casey's car to air out.

Lee said he tried to mediate between Casey and his mother Cindy Anthony. Cindy hadn't seen Caylee for a month, and Lee said he asked Casey why she wouldn't bring the little girl home.

"Because maybe I'm a spiteful bitch," Lee recalled Casey telling him.

Lee said he tried to persuade her to tell him where Caylee was and to let him bring her home. But Lee said Casey insisted Caylee was already asleep at a nanny's house, and she didn't want to disrupt the child's sleeping routine.

Lee said Casey complained about Cindy's treatment of her. Casey said "that my mother numerous times had thrown in her face that she was an unfit mother for Caylee and that Casey says 'maybe I am,'" Lee testified.

During their conversation, Cindy called 911 trying to get a deputy to come to the house, Lee testified. He said Casey finally told him Caylee had been missing for 31 days, kidnapped by a nanny whom she identified as Zenaida Fernandez-Gonzalez.

Casey also told Lee and a detective who came to the house that she had received a telephone call that day from Caylee.

The officer who first arrived at the Anthony home testified that Casey initially provided little information but later agreed to take him to the nanny's apartment.

Corporal Raymond Fletcher said the apartment Casey pointed out to him appeared to be vacant and no one answered the door.

The apartment property manager testified that the apartment had been vacant for five months, and no one by the name Zenaida Gonzalez had ever lived in the complex.

After midnight, a missing persons detective arrived at the Anthony house to join the investigation. Yuri Melich testified that he did not yet consider Casey a suspect and so he took her recorded statement without reading her Miranda rights, which inform suspects that they have the right to remain silent.

In Casey's statement, she claimed Caylee had disappeared on June 9, 2008. She provided a detailed description of the nanny, including height, weight, hair color and style and information about her former residences and friends.

Casey talked about leaving work at Universal Studios, driving to the nanny's house and finding both the nanny and Caylee gone. Casey explained that she did not have the nanny's phone number because she lost her phone at her job.

She said she told only her friends Jeff and Juliette about Caylee's disappearance.

Jurors have already heard trial testimony suggesting that the nanny, Jeff and Juliette did not exist and Casey was not employed at Universal.

Asked by Melich why she did not notify authorities immediately of Caylee's disappearance, Casey said, "I think part of me was naive enough to think I could handle it myself, which I obviously couldn't."

Casey also said "fear of the unknown" stopped her from telling anyone.

Prosecutor Linda Drane Burdick said she expects to have presented half of the prosecution's witnesses by week's end.

However, experts who will testify about scientific evidence are still to come, and Baez has told the jury that the scientific evidence will take up the greatest amount of time.

(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Greg McCune)