By Barbara Liston
ORLANDO, Fla (Reuters) - A single 9-inch-long brown hair found in the car trunk of accused child killer Casey Anthony could have been ripped from the dead body of her 2-year old daughter, an FBI expert testified on Saturday.
The hair evidence is among the most contentious in Casey's first-degree murder trial on charges that she killed Caylee Anthony on June 16, 2008, and dumped her body in woods near the Anthony home. Defense lawyer Jose Baez contends the science behind some of the hair analysis is new and unreliable.
Caylee was first reported missing July 15, 2008, by her grandmother Cindy Anthony after finding Casey's car at an impound lot. Cindy and a series of witnesses have testified that the car was permeated by a strong stench that they likened to the odor of a body.
Casey told detectives Caylee was kidnapped by a nanny. But after a nationwide search, Caylee's skeletal remains were found in December 2008 in woods a 10-minute walk from the Anthony family home.
Baez has told jurors Caylee drowned accidentally in the backyard pool but that her death went unreported.
Karen Korsberg Lowe, who specializes in microscopic examination of hair samples at the FBI Laboratory in Quantico, Virginia, testified she found "root-banding" on the hair, something she said scientists have never seen other than on hairs from decomposing bodies.
"It has darkened bands at the root portion ... . This is consistent with apparent decomposition," Lowe testified.
Lowe also testified the hair appeared under a microscope to be similar to one recovered from Caylee's hairbrush.
"I made a determination that it was similar to a hair in a hairbrush that was identified as belonging to Caylee Anthony," Lowe said.
She said further mitochondrial DNA testing linked the hair to Caylee and her maternal line of relatives, including her mother Casey and her grandmother, Cindy.
However, Lowe said the hair did not match Casey's in a microscopic examination.
Jurors have seen in person and videos from 2008 that Cindy wears her hair short and dyed blonde. Lowe said the only way to definitively say who the hair belonged to would be through nuclear DNA testing of any flesh attached to the hair.
Lowe said there was no flesh on the hair even though she could tell it had been pulled from a head.
Baez tried unsuccessfully in the months leading up to the trial to persuade Judge Belvin Perry to ban the hair analysis evidence. That and evidence still to come on the analysis of air samples from the car trunk that Baez also fought are expected to become grounds for an appeal if she is convicted.
Lowe said this was the first trial at which she has testified about hair root banding. In previous cases involving hairs with root banding, she said, the hairs came from known bodies and, thus, hair banding was not a critical issue.
Also Saturday, Michael Vincent, a crime scene supervisor for the Orange County Sheriff's Office, testified that he helped obtain several air samples from the car trunk and a forensics bay where the sheriff's office stored the car.
Vincent said air samples also were taken from a bag of trash that had been in the car trunk.
The samples were sent to Dr. Arpad Vass at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee who is a leading expert on chemical vapors arising from human decomposition. The lab calls his work "groundbreaking science" and he is expected to testify for the prosecution. Baez has called the work "junk science."
Saturday's testimony ended the second week of the trial which is expected to take eight weeks in total. Prosecutors told the judge on Friday that they expect to finish presenting their evidence on June 17.
(Editing by David Bailey)