ORLANDO, Fla (Reuters) - The father of accused child killer Casey Anthony sobbed on the witness stand on Wednesday as he testified that he bought a gun in August 2008 and planned to force his daughter’s friends at gunpoint to tell him what happened to his then-missing granddaughter.
George Anthony, called back to the witness stand by the defense, also said he tried to commit suicide in January 2009, a month after 2-year-old Caylee’s skeletal remains were found.
“It just felt like the right time to go and be with Caylee,” he told jurors in the sixth week of the highly publicized first-degree murder trial in Orlando.
Prosecutors say Casey, 25, smothered her young daughter with duct tape on June 16, 2008 so she could “live the good life” free of the demands of motherhood. They say Casey stored the child’s body in her car trunk, then dumped it in woods near her home.
When Casey’s mother reported the child missing a month later, Casey claimed Caylee had been kidnapped by a nanny.
Prosecutor Jeff Ashton told Judge Belvin Perry that George’s testimony rebutted the defense contention that George was somehow complicit in Caylee’s disappearance.
“This man had no idea who killed Caylee Marie Anthony,” Ashton said.
Defense attorney Jose Baez said at the start of the trial that Caylee accidentally drowned in the Anthony family’s backyard pool. He said George found her body, but the death went unreported.
Baez also claimed that George had sexually abused Casey starting at age 8. George has denied any sexual abuse or involvement in Caylee’s death.
As her father broke down on the stand, Casey continued to write in a legal pad and whispered to her lawyers.
George said he never used the gun he bought. At the time he purchased it, Casey was under house arrest after being charged with lying to detectives during their investigation into Caylee’s disappearance.
Within hours of bringing the gun home, someone from the jail arrived to tell him the weapon violated the terms of Casey’s house arrest and took the gun away, George said.
He said his intent was to force answers from Casey’s friends and associates, whom he did not name.
“I wanted to get answers from people that I believed were involved with my granddaughter (being) missing,” he said.
George testified he continued to believe Casey’s account of a kidnapping even after Caylee’s remains were found in woods near their home on December 11, 2008.
George said he checked into a motel in Daytona Beach on January 22, 2009 with prescription pills and beer. He found it hard to accept that Caylee was dead, he said.
He described calling some relatives one last time and writing a multiple-page suicide note for his wife, telling her, “how I didn’t want to be in this world anymore”.
George said he would have died if law enforcement hadn’t found him and taken him to the hospital.
Ashton told Perry he intends to introduce George’s suicide letter into evidence, but the judge said he hadn’t yet decided whether to allow jurors to read it.
Baez tried to stop George’s testimony about the gun and suicide letter from being heard by the jury. Perry acknowledged that the testimony and letter normally would not be allowed, but ruled that prosecutors could ask George about his state of mind because Baez had “opened the door.”
Earlier on Wednesday, Baez brought up the suicide letter and asked George: “You expressed some guilt, did you not?”
Before George could answer, prosecutors objected and Baez withdrew the question.
Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Cynthia Johnston