ORLANDO, Fla (Reuters) - An FBI examiner testified on Monday that she saw the outline of a small heart on the duct tape prosecutors say Casey Anthony used to smother her 2-year-old daughter Caylee three years ago this week.
“Other than saying it was in the shape of a heart the size of a dime, I cannot go further,” said Elizabeth Fountaine, an FBI specialist in latent fingerprints.
Fountaine said the heart outline looked like the same sort of residue left behind by an old adhesive bandage that has been pulled away from the skin.
Previously released documents show that heart-shaped stickers of a similar size to what Fountaine described were found during a search of the Orlando-area home Casey shared with her daughter and parents.
The 25-year-old Florida mother is standing trial on a first-degree murder charge and could face the death penalty if convicted.
Caylee’s skeleton was found on December 11, 2008 in woods near the Anthony home after a five-month, nationwide search.
The defense says Caylee accidentally drowned in the family’s backyard pool, and no one reported her death.
Prosecutors contend Casey killed Caylee on June 16, 2008 by wrapping duct tape three times around the toddler’s head, nose and mouth.
Crime scene specialists recovered duct tape hanging from Caylee’s skull and additional tape several feet away where animals had dragged her body parts. Fountaine testified that when the FBI examined the duct tape, they found three separate pieces that were each six to eight inches long.
Fountaine was one of the final prosecution witnesses in the trial, which kicked off its fourth week on Monday.
At lunchtime, Judge Belvin Perry adjourned the proceedings until Tuesday afternoon when the next prosecution witness will be available. Perry told the jury the prosecution will wrap up its presentation on Tuesday or Wednesday, and the defense will begin presenting its evidence by Thursday.
The judge predicted jurors could begin their deliberations as early as June 25 or June 27, a few weeks earlier than initially expected.
Fountaine’s testimony may help plug a hole in the state’s case.
So far, prosecutors have tied the distinctive brand of duct tape found at the crime scene to tape used to patch a hole on an old metal gas can in the Anthonys’ outdoor shed. George Anthony, Casey’s father, testified he believed he patched the can with the tape about a week after Caylee died.
Prosecutors last week tried to admit into evidence a photograph of heart-shaped stickers they said were found in Casey’s bedroom, but they were stopped by defense objections discussed in private with the judge.
Fountaine testified she saw the heart outline while examining the duct tape with the aid of a reflective ultraviolet imaging system that can highlight existing fingerprints. Fountaine said she showed the heart outline to a supervisor, but did not photograph it because her job was to look for fingerprints.
Fountaine said her work required her to coat the tape with super glue and a traditional black fingerprint powder. She said she attempted to photograph the heart outline after she finished, but it was no longer visible.
In her report, Fountaine noted that she saw the heart shape on the tape but found no fingerprints.
Most of the testimony on Monday was dominated by a single strand of hair found in Casey’s car trunk.
Numerous witnesses have provided evidence indicating Caylee’s decomposing body spent time in Casey’s trunk before being dumped in the woods.
A previous FBI expert testified that the strand of hair showed “post-mortem banding,” which is a dark band of color near the root sometimes seen on hair from the deceased.
The strand also was found by FBI analysts to be “consistent” with a hair from Caylee’s hair brush.
But the science of hair banding and its use as evidence at a trial is new.
FBI hair analyst Stephen Shaw testified Monday about his ongoing research on whether banding can ever occur on hair from a living person. Shaw said his study — which he said was expedited to shore up testimony in the Anthony trial — so far indicates that it does not.
“Post-mortem root banding is already what I would say valid,” Shaw testified.
Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Jerry Norton