ORLANDO, Fla (Reuters) - Casey Anthony lived a life full of deception and elaborate lies that culminated in the murder of her own daughter, prosecutors alleged on Tuesday, but defense lawyers said the girl drowned in a swimming pool.
On the first day of the sensational first-degree murder trial of the 25-year-old Florida mother accused of the 2008 murder of two-year-old Caylee Marie Anthony, lawyers presented starkly different descriptions of what happened.
Prosecutor Linda Drane Burdick told the jury that Casey Anthony suffocated her daughter by wrapping tape around her nose and mouth, and then hiding her body in woods nearby.
She described bizarre behavior by Casey Anthony, alleging she went on shopping sprees, nightclubbing, getting tattoos and hanging out with her boyfriend in the days and weeks following Caylee’s death. Casey’s mother finally called 911 to report the little girl missing.
The defense countered that two-year-old Caylee simply drowned in her backyard pool.
“She never was missing. Caylee died on June 16, 2008 when she drowned in her family’s pool,” attorney Jose Baez said.
Prosecutors provided jurors with a timeline of events after Caylee was last seen alive by her grandfather, George Anthony, on June 16 at 12:50 p.m. He kissed Caylee goodbye on the little girl’s way out the door with Casey Anthony.
On that day, Casey Anthony was dressed as usual for work at Universal Studios theme park where her parents believed she had worked for years. But cell phone records show that Casey did not leave the area of the house that the three generations of Anthonys shared until 4 p.m., prosecutors said.
More than a month later, during a missing person search for Caylee, two cadaver dogs brought to the Anthony home detected the odor of human remains near Caylee’s backyard playhouse.
After the investigation began into Caylee’s disappearance, investigators also determined Casey had not worked at Universal since her maternity leave almost three years earlier despite dressing in her Universal work clothes, carrying a Universal identification card and fooling her family.
Burdick outlined a series of lies that she said Casey told her mother Cindy Anthony and friends after Caylee’s disappearance.
At various times, Casey claimed Caylee was being watched by a series of babysitters, that Caylee had gone to a business meeting with Casey at Busch Gardens theme park in Tampa, that Caylee had gone with her to Jacksonville, that Caylee was at the beach and at a cartoon character breakfast at Universal, Burdick said.
All this time, security cameras at Orlando shopping malls and stores placed Casey in town and without her daughter. Friends photographed Casey the week after her daughter’s disappearance participating in a “hot body contest” at a nightclub, the prosecution alleged.
Cell phone records indicated she spent nights at a boyfriend’s house when her parents thought she and Caylee were out of town.
The facade began unraveling when George and Cindy Anthony found Casey’s car at an impound lot and Cindy told police in a 911 call that the trunk “smelled like a dead body,” Burdick said.
The defense claimed Casey was sexually abused by her father, George Anthony, starting at age 8, and that “Casey was raised to lie.”
George Anthony was later called to the witness stand and denied that he had abused his daughter.
Defense attorney Baez said described the girl’s death as an accident gone wrong.
“It was an accident that snowballed,” Baez added.
Baez admitted Casey had pretended for two years, and continued lying to her parents after Caylee’s death, to be going to a job at Universal Orlando.
The trial has gained national attention and people lined in the wee hours of the morning to get one of the 50 public seats in the courtroom.
Editing by Greg McCune