It all began with a phone call to police in July 2008 from the grandmother of 2-year-old Caylee Marie Anthony, who reported the toddler missing and said her daughter’s car smelled like a "dead body.”
Now, almost three years later, the child’s 25-year-old mother, Casey Anthony, is on trial for murder in a case that has captivated the American public.
Caylee was allegedly last seen by her grandmother, Cindy Anthony, on June 15, 2008, when she said the two visited a nursing home together. The toddler’s body was found six months later in swampy woods not far from the Orlando home she shared with her mother and grandparents – her tiny remains wrapped in a bag with a piece of duct tape found over the mouth of her skull.
Cindy Anthony reported the child as possibly missing to an Orange County Police dispatcher on July 15, 2008. Cindy asked that an officer be sent to her home to arrest her daughter for “stealing an auto” and money.
“I have someone here that I need to be arrested,” Cindy said in her first 911 call. “I have a possible missing child. I have a 3-year-old that’s been missing for a month.”
A second, more distressed phone call followed about an hour later in which Cindy claimed Casey said the girl was taken by a baby sitter.
“My daughter finally admitted that the baby sitter stole her,” Cindy said. “I found my daughter’s car today and it smells like there’s been a dead body in the damn car.”
Casey allegedly told investigators that she dropped her daughter off with a baby sitter named Zenaida Fernandez-Gonzalez on June 9, and never saw the two again. She said she didn’t notify police because she had been investigating the disappearance on her own and was scared, according to multiple press accounts.
But investigators say Casey fed them a string of lies from the beginning – like claiming she worked at Universal Studios when she didn't. Pictures later surfaced that purportedly showed the young mother partying in the days after she claimed her daughter went missing.
Police arrested Casey on July 16, 2008, for child neglect, giving false official statements and obstructing a criminal investigation.
Prosecutors say the evidence against Casey is overwhelming in the case.
Court documents released in November 2008, for example, show that someone searched the Internet in the Anthony home for phrases like “neck-breaking,” “shovel,” and “household weapons.” A law enforcement official said air samples showed a human body had once been held inside the trunk of Casey’s car. Traces of chloroform, a substance used to induce unconsciousness, were also detected inside the woman’s car, according to officials.
What’s more, Casey allegedly told fellow inmates at the Orange County Jail details about her daughter’s death that only authorities knew. She also said that she sometimes drugged Caylee when she wanted to go out and party, the inmates allege.
Caylee's skeletal remains were found by a utility worker in a wooded area about a quarter mile from her home on Dec. 11, 2008. The bones showed no signs of trauma and her death was ruled a "homicide of undetermined means."
Casey has pleaded not guilty in the death of her daughter. She also is charged with aggravated child abuse, aggravated manslaughter of a child and providing false information to law enforcement. If convicted on murder charges, Casey could face the death penalty.
A judge ruled Friday that Anthony's parents can be in the courtroom throughout her murder trial, despite being witnesses for both the defense and prosecution, MyFoxOrlando.com reports.