ORLANDO, Fla. – Prosecutors in the murder trial of a Florida woman charged with killing her 2-year-old daughter called her brother and members of law enforcement to the witness stand Wednesday, trying to give jurors a better look at the conflicting statements she told them before and after the child was reported missing.
Lee Anthony, the brother of Casey Anthony, recounted to jurors his unsuccessful efforts to track down his sister at a nightclub by text messaging and calling her in early July 2008, around the time the little girl was reported missing.
Casey Anthony is charged with first-degree murder in the death of her toddler, Caylee. If convicted, she could be sentenced to death.
She has pleaded not guilty and her defense attorney says Caylee died in an accidental drowning in the family's swimming pool. The prosecution says the child was suffocated after duct tape was placed over her mouth.
Caylee was last seen by her grandparents in mid-June 2008. Casey Anthony waited a month before telling her family the toddler was missing. Her mother then called authorities.
Casey Anthony has said she was conducting her own efforts to find her missing daughter, but prosecutors contend she was going to nightclubs, shopping and hanging out with friends during that month.
Detective Yuri Melich testified at length about his initial interview with Casey Anthony on July 16, just hours after she told her mother and brother that Caylee was missing. The revelation prompted Cindy Anthony to call 911, and police sent officers to the family home.
Casey Anthony gave them a written statement and eventually led deputies to the last place she remembered leaving Caylee — an apartment she said was the residence of her nanny, Zenaida Fernandez-Gonzalez.
The apartment was vacant and the complex's manager at the time said no one by that name had lived there in 2008.
"She's the last person to see my daughter," Casey Anthony told Melich in a recorded interview that was played for the jury. "... I just want my daughter back."
All four of the officers questioned Wednesday recalled an odor from Casey Anthony's car as it was in her parents' garage, but none said it prompted them to investigate.
Prosecutors contend the odor came from human decomposition, but defense attorneys claim it was from rotting garbage.
Defense attorney Jose Baez focused on the officers' lack of urgency.
"It was a garbage-type odor. That's the best I can describe it," deputy Adrianna Acevedo told Baez.
Earlier, Casey Anthony wiped tears from her eyes as her brother testified about how he'd questioned his sister on why Caylee hadn't been seen by her family in weeks. She told her brother that Caylee was with a baby sitter and that she didn't want to interrupt her sleep schedule by getting her, Lee Anthony said.
"Nothing was making sense to me," Lee Anthony said. "Why couldn't anybody get Caylee and bring her home?"
After more questioning, Casey Anthony told her brother that she hadn't seen her daughter in 31 days and that the baby sitter had kidnapped her, Lee Anthony said.