ORLANDO, Fla (Reuters) - The decomposing body of 2-year-old Caylee Anthony was moved twice according to a time line provided by a bug expert on Saturday at the first degree murder trial of the girl’s mother Casey Anthony.
Casey, 25, is charged with killing her daughter Caylee on June 16, 2008. Caylee’s skeleton was found in woods near their home on December 11, 2008 following a nationwide search.
Prosecutors said Casey smothered Caylee with duct tape wrapped around her head, nose and mouth. Defense lawyer Jose Baez contends Caylee accidentally drowned in the Anthony’s backyard pool and that her death went unreported.
Entomologist Neal Haskell testified Caylee’s body had completed a short, initial stage of decomposition before the body allegedly was placed in Casey’s car trunk.
Haskell testified he based that conclusion on the remains of flies in a trash bag in the trunk. Haskell said he found only a single leg from the type of fly that feasts on a fresh body.
But Haskell said he found hundreds of eggs and adult specimens of another type of gnat-like fly which appears during the next stage of decomposition.
Haskell said the gnats were concentrated in stains on paper towels which were determined to be fluid consistent with human decomposition. Haskel said he believed the towels were used in an attempt to clean up a similar stain on the trunk’s carpet.
Haskell estimated the body remained in the car trunk for up to five days, long enough for biochemical changes that attract the gnats, before being moved directly to the woods, likely in June or early July 2008.
Haskel said remains of more of the same gnats were found around Caylee’s skeleton at the dump site.
Haskell’s findings fit earlier prosecution evidence that dogs trained to sniff out the odor of human decomposition signaled that they found the scent on the ground near Caylee’s playhouse in the Anthony‘s’ backyard, and that the scent likely was limited to the surface rather than deep into the ground.
Numerous witnesses, including Casey’s parents George and Cindy Anthony, scientists and crime scene specialists, also have testified about the overwhelming smell of a dead body emanating from Casey’s car trunk.
Haskel’s testimony conflicted with the theory of the defense that the car odor and fluid stains in the trunk might have come from household garbage. Haskel testified that the empty pizza box, empty soda cans and other refuse in the trash bag would not have attracted the flies.
Also on Saturday, a land surveyor showed jurors a 3-D animation of the topography where Caylee’s remains were found. The area was searched several times in August 2008, leading Baez to suggest that the body was deposited there later. Prosecutors contend the body was obscured by dense vegetation and water during Florida’s summer rainy season. The 3-D animation showed the dump site, which was almost 20 feet from the edge of Suburban Drive, and was several feet lower than the road pavement.
George and Cindy Anthony returned to the courtroom after a two-day absence, during which photographs and graphic testimony about Caylee’s remains were shown to the jury.
Cindy reported Caylee missing on July 15, 2008 after finding Casey’s car at an impound lot reeking of what smelled to her like death. At the time, Cindy testified, Casey had avoided her almost daily attempts for a month to see of speak to Caylee.
After Caylee’s remains were found, a search was performed at the house Cindy and George Anthony shared with Casey and Caylee. Evidence taken from the home was shown to the jury.
Among items taken from the home was an off-white canvas laundry bag that matched one found with Caylee’s remains. Prosecutors say Caylee’s body was stuffed into the laundry bag and into two black plastic garbage bags with yellow ties like ones also found at the Anthony home.
Investigators also searched the home for duct tape like the tape found dangling from Caylee’s skull. A crime scene supervisor testified that they did not find a roll of the duct tape but did find a piece of it which was stuck on an old metal gas can in an outdoor shed.
George Anthony previously testified he placed the tape on the can to replace a cap that he said Casey lost when she used the can a few days after Caylee’s death.
Editing by Greg McCune