Tim McKernan, Thu, 05 Feb 2009 06:00:00 GMT
Kenny Strode spent one year as a producer and board operator on Team 1380’s ITD Morning After. He also wrote for the insideSTL.com STL Golf section last year. Over the last month, he has requested that I publish a column on the murder of Caylee Anthony. Having spent a great deal of time in Orlando where this story all takes place, Kenny has not only passionate opinions, but also some insight into the story that has captivated much of the country.
The sad story of a missing 2 year old Orlando girl, Caylee Anthony, began on July 15th of last year, when her mother, Casey Anthony, reported her missing.
What makes this case different from other missing person cases? The child had been missing for over a month before anyone alerted police. And it only came to light then because Casey’s mother, Cindy Anthony, called police to inform them that her daughter’s car “smelled like there’s been a damn dead body in there.” and that she hasn’t seen her granddaughter since June 8th, even though she took Caylee to see her great grandfather on June 15th. More on that later.
Cindy Anthony made three 911 calls on July 15th. The first two mainly because Casey had stolen money from Cindy and Casey’s best friend Amy Huizenga. The third 911 call was placed to say Caylee had been kidnapped by the nanny. This after Casey confessed to her Mom that Caylee was missing and that the nanny had taken her 31 days ago, even though Casey told authorities she dropped Caylee off with the Nanny on June 9th. That doesn’t add up to 31 days, but more on that also later.
The lies—and there are many that have been stated over the last six plus months—started as soon as detectives showed up to interview Casey on the evening of July 15th. She told detectives she dropped Caylee off at Zanni’s apartment on June 16th. My guess is she changed the date she dropped off Caylee from June 9th to June 16th to match her mother Cindy’s statement that she hadn’t seen Caylee for 31 days. Neither date adds up to 31 days, but I guess it was close enough in her mind. Casey told detectives Zanni was actually Zenaida Fernandez Gonzalez. That would the first of many lies told on this night and the days to come…and not just lies by Casey.
Family and friends have stated they have heard Casey refer to the nanny as Zanni but had never heard her mention the name Zenaida. Don’t you find it a little odd that Casey had mentioned the babysitter as Zanni for the last 2 years, but her parents, George and Cindy Anthony, had never heard the name Zenaida and had never met the woman who had supposedly been watching their granddaughter for the last 2 years?
As the interview with investigators continued, so did the lies. Casey said she met Zanni through Jeff Hopkins, a person who worked with her at Universal Studios. She said Jeff had a son Zach, who Zanni watched. Lies! Casey hadn’t worked at Universal since 2006, and Jeff had never met Caylee or Zanni and doesn’t have a son named Zach.
Casey also told investigators that she only told 2 people about Zanni kidnapping Caylee, Jeff Hopkins, which we know was a lie, and Juliet Lewis, who Casey claimed worked with her at Universal. No Juliet Lewis ever worked at Universal. Why make up that name? I found out through Casey’s now deleted MySpace page, that Natural Born Killers was one of her favorite movies. Who stars in that movie? Juliette Lewis, although Casey spells the name differently to detectives.
The interview continues and so do the lies. She told detectives she dropped Caylee off at Zanni’s, #210 at the Sawgrass Apartments. Lie! That apartment had been vacant for over 4 months. Said she met Zanni four years ago. So that means she met Zenaida before she was even pregnant and before she even thought about a babysitter. Casey said she called Zenaida to ask where Caylee was. Casey’s phone records indicate no such call was placed.
Casey told detectives she spent the last month looking for Caylee on her own. Oh really! Photos were taken during that 30 day period of Casey grinding on another female, and partying with friends at Fusion Ultra Lounge. Casey said she couldn’t supply detectives with any phone numbers for Zenaida, Juliet, Jeff, or Zenaida’s mom because her phone had been stolen from off her desk at Universal and the new phone, also supplied by Universal, didn’t have the new numbers in the SIM card. She said she reported the missing phone to Universal. Lie, lie, lie and lie. She hadn’t worked at Universal since 2006.
As the lies mounted, the detectives had no other choice but to arrest Casey. Since no one knew if Caylee was dead or alive, Casey was arrested for theft, lying to investigators, and child neglect. Her bond was set at $500.000. A few months later, Casey is indicted by a Grand Jury with First Degree Murder. While Casey sat in jail, detectives turned their attention to finding the real answers and began interviewing Casey’s parents, George and Cindy Anthony and her brother Lee Anthony. Here is where you will find lying must run in the Anthony family.
We’ll start with Cindy Anthony. She first tells detectives she last saw her granddaughter on June 8th. That is until a video is found on the Anthony computer, which shows Cindy and Caylee at the nursing home of Cindy’s father on June 15th, Fathers Day. Cindy tells detectives that Casey bought everything for Caylee: clothes, food, toys, and said Casey spoiled her rotten.
That’s funny because we know Cindy would tell Casey later that she was an unfit Mother and was thinking about getting custody of Caylee. Even Lee Anthony told detectives that George and Cindy bought everything for Caylee and that Casey never spent a cent on her daughter. Cindy told the 911 dispatcher that the car smelled like a dead body, yet she told detectives the smell was due to a rotten pizza box in the trunk. It was later reported that cadaver dogs picked up the scent of body decomposition in Casey’s trunk. Cindy tells detectives she didn’t see Casey or Caylee on the morning of June 16th, but heard them moving around in Casey’s room. That’s the opposite of what she told Lee. She told Lee she didn’t hear or see Casey or Caylee that morning.
Father George Anthony tells detectives he last saw Caylee and Casey on the afternoon of June 16th. He said he remembers it was at around 12:45 because he was watching a guy he likes on the Food Channel. He said he saw them leave at around 1:15 or 1:30. Yet Lee tells detectives that George told him he had to be at work around noon and saw Casey and Caylee leave around 11:45. George tells detectives that he confronts Casey about missing gas cans on June 24th, but never looks in her trunk. Later he tells the FBI that he looked in the trunk and saw the gas cans and some clothes. George told the FBI that he found Casey’s purse and drivers license in the car when he picked it up on July 15th. Yet Lee tells detectives that he picked up Casey’s wallet at her boyfriend Tony Lazzaro’s house on the night of July 15th and her license was inside the wallet. Unless she had two wallets and 2 drivers license, someone is lying.
One more question about George and Cindy. After picking up Casey’s car at the impound, and both saying it smelled like a dead body had been in the trunk, and knowing they hadn’t seen their granddaughter Caylee in over a month, why did they both go back to work after dropping the car off at home? As a former police officer, and saying that he knows what a dead body smells like, wouldn’t the first thing that George would do would be to call the police? And why did Cindy take a pair of Casey’s stained pants from the back seat and wash them before returning to work?
Now it’s Brother Lee Anthony’s turn to spin even more lies to detectives, and decide to take the investigation over himself. Lee tells detectives that he went over to Casey’s boyfriend Tony Lazzaro’s house in the early morning hours of July 16th to pick up her things. He says when he opened her laptop, he noticed an error message on the screen. He believed the error message to be a virus, and he noticed that the virus had deleted all of Casey’s files leading up to July 15th.
I don’t believe the cops think a virus deleted those files. Casey didn’t have time, and Lazzaro had no idea that Casey had been arrested. Lee then decided to do some investigating of his own. He informed the detectives that he had tracked down some of Casey’s friends and talked to them. He came up with phone numbers and email addresses, and contacted various people at Universal. Lee did a lot of laughing during this interview. Funny, but I never considered a missing child a laughing matter. What I find odd is that instead of grieving over his missing niece and helping police with their search, he’s investigating who his sister was sleeping with over the past 3 months. More on Lee, George and Cindy Anthony later.
On December 11th, the remains of a small child are located in a wooded area 1/3 of a mile from the Anthony home. They are discovered by Roy Kronk, an Orange County meter reader as he walks into the woods to relieve himself. He says he kicks a trash bag and a tiny skull rolls out of the bag. After an autopsy is performed and DNA testing is done, the remains are identified as those of Caylee Marie Anthony.
Cause of death: homicide.
She was wrapped inside a laundry bag, and then that bag was placed in a trash bag. Her body was entirely skeletonized. Her mouth was duct taped and a tiny heart shaped sticker was placed over the duct tape. Inside the bag were a pair of white shorts, a child’s t-shirt, some iron on letters and a Winnie the Pooh blanket.
The twists and turns of the case continue, as we discover that the meter reader who found the remains had called the Orange County Sheriffs Office on Aug 11th, 12th, and 13th to report something he noticed in those same woods. Back in August, he called to report a white bag. That’s odd considering the bag Caylee was found in was black.
In his first 911 call, he says, “I’m not saying it’s Caylee or anything.” Why would he think some bag in the woods is a dead body? The first 911 call was answered, and when they arrived at the location, Kronk was gone. After the 2nd 911 call, investigators noticed that cadaver dogs had already searched that area and nothing turned up. An officer responded to the 3rd 911 call and reported he saw nothing but trash. When asked why he waited until Dec 11th to go back and check the area again, Kronk said he was taken off that route and was just reassigned back to the area in December. Well, after checking, it was discovered that Kronk was actually back on that route in November. Why was Kronk so interested in that area? My theory later in this article.
Which started out as a search for a gorgeous little 2 year old girl, has now turned into a murder investigation and a three ring circus. We have the mother, Casey Anthony, sticking to her “Zanni took her” story, and the parents, George and Cindy, and Brother Lee all asking for immunity. We have a meter reader looking for a body on 3 separate occasions, then finding it himself 4 months later, while taking a leak 30 feet into the woods when he would have had the privacy he needed to relieve himself by going only 3 feet into the woods.
We have George fighting with the media and spraying protesters in front of his house with a garden hose. We have Lee Anthony’s attorney saying he expects his client to be arrested for obstruction of justice. We have jail house video tapes of Casey Anthony telling her parents to stop asking her questions about Caylee’s disappearance and screaming at them, proclaiming she is a victim. We have George Anthony supposedly attempting suicide in a Daytona Beach Hotel. I say supposed, because 2 empty pill bottles, with the labels peeled off, were found in the trash can of his room. Yet when police arrived, he seemed fine, even though his suicide letter stated he had taken pills and was starting to pass out. This circus is taking place while the remains of Caylee Marie Anthony still sit in a box at the Funeral Home, still waiting for burial, and just maybe, closure for a grieving community.
For the millions of people who have followed this case since day one, there are so many questions that have yet to be answered. In the course of following this case, I have poured over thousands of documents, interviews and discovery released by the State Attorney’s Office. I have talked to those close to the case as well as forensic experts. After studying what I was told and what I read over the last 6+ months, I will try and answer some of those questions.
If there was no person named Zenaida Gonzalez, how did Casey come up with her name?
Remember, Casey never mentioned the name Zenaida to anyone. She always said Zanni. On June 17th, a Zenaida Gonzalez was at the Sawgrass Apartment rental office inquiring about an apartment. They showed her apartment 210, the same apartment where Casey told detectives she dropped Caylee off , and the same apartment that had been vacant for 4 months. My guess? Casey was at Sawgrass on June 17th visiting friends, and came across Zenaida leaving the office. The manager yells out, Zenaida Gonzalez, you forgot to sign your application. Casey notices what she looks like, what kind of car she got into and noticed the New York plates. That would explain why should told the cops she dropped Caylee off with Zenaida at the Sawgrass Apartments, Apt 210, that she was Puerto Rican and was originally from New York.
Then if she came up with the name Zenaida on June 17th, what was Zanni short for, since she had been calling her Nanny that name for 2 years?
Casey had no job or money, and her mom could not babysit Caylee every night. So where did Caylee stay on those evenings? My opinion is that Casey drugged Caylee with either chloroform or xanex, then put her in the trunk while she partied. Thus, Zanni = Xanex. If you read over Law Enforcement interviews with Casey’s friends, all of them were asked if they knew about Casey ever using xanex.
Why do police want to talk to Lee Anthony and why does his lawyer think he will be arrested for obstruction of justice?
I believe Lee knew where Caylee was buried before the remains were discovered on Dec 11th. I also think detectives believe Lee was responsible for deleting files on Casey’s computer.
When Kronk and the Anthony’s private investigators searched the woods prior to Dec 11th, they found nothing. Why? And was Kronk tipped off to the location of the remains?
I believe Kronk and the PI’s were searching the wrong area. Yes, I believe they were tipped off, but I believe they were 150 to 200 feet from where the body was actually discovered, and I believe they were sent to the wrong location on purpose. Then I believe Kronk was sent to the right location on Dec 11th. Why? Because now the defense can say, “Look, that area was searched 6 times by investigators, Kronk and the Anthony’s PI’s and they found nothing. Then on Dec 11th, Kronk goes back again, but this time he finds the body, while my client is in jail. So she couldn’t have possibly dumped the body there.”
The main questions everyone is asking: “Why, when, and how did Casey kill Caylee, and when did she dump the body in the woods?” The detectives say Caylee was killed on June 16th and the body was dumped on June 18th. I disagree with that theory and this is why.
As we know, George confronted Casey on June 24th about his missing gas cans. Casey was hesitant about letting George near the trunk. Most believe it was because she didn’t want him to see the cans. I believe she was afraid he might notice the trash bag. Granted, George didn’t know at the time that Casey was dead, or even missing for that matter, but Casey was getting paranoid. George has given two different stories.
During one interview, he says he didn’t look in the trunk. But in his interview with the FBI, he says he looked in the trunk and saw some clothes and his gas cans. Remember, again, he wasn’t looking for a trash bag, only his gas cans. Either way, George was close enough to the trunk to smell a dead body.
If Casey dumped the body on the 18th as police believe, why was there no smell in the trunk on June 24th, but an awful smell, which he said smelled like a dead body, on July 15th?
I asked a well known forensic scientist if it was possible to have a dead body in the trunk of a car for 2 days and not have the smell of decomposition in the trunk 8 days later, but have an overwhelming smell 21 days later? He said if the body had leaked a large amount of fluid and soaked into the carpet, it could get worse over time, but he would expect to smell something within 6 days, especially that time of year in Florida.
I then asked him, suppose the body was wrapped in a blanket or sheet, put in a bag and sealed, then put in a second trash bag that was also sealed very tight, and kept in the trunk for 6 days, would you smell it? He said if that was the case, the smell would be concealed.
I then asked him, what if that bag was torn at some time and leaked into the car. What kind of smell would there be if the human liquid remained in the trunk for 3 weeks? He said the smell would be unbearable and would have the smell of a badly decomposed body. He said if it was a small tear, it would explain how the small bugs got into the trash bag and ate away the flesh, but no large animals got into the bag and dragged away the bones. He knew that because nearly 100% of Caylee’s bones were discovered.
From talking to those close to the case, and going over thousands of documents, this what I believe happened:
On June 15th, Casey and her mother got into a huge fight over how Casey was neglecting her daughter. Neighbors who were interviewed remember loud screaming and shouting coming from the Anthony home on that night. Cindy told Casey to get out of the house and that she was going to get custody of Caylee. Cindy started choking Casey, in which time Casey grabbed a few of her things, grabbed Caylee, got in her car and left.
If you look at Cindy’s FBI tape, she started talking about wanting to shake the truth out of Casey, then spent 3 minutes saying she would never actually shake or choke her daughter, but was using a figure of speech . The FBI never asked about choking. Cindy brought it up on her own.
Once in the car, Casey drove to the parking lot of a nearby hotel, in which someone reported seeing her car. There, she called Tony and told him about the fight she had and said she was moving out and wanted to stay with him. Tony said she couldn’t move in with the baby. At some point, Caylee started crying. At which time, Casey grabbed some chloroform that she kept in the trunk, and put it over Caylee’s mouth until she passed out. After her conversation with Tony, which ended at 1:05 am, she texted Tony several times, until he called her again at 3:08 am. Casey then fell asleep with Caylee still in the trunk. When Casey awoke, she realized Caylee was dead and she started making more calls.
Her cell pings indicate she never left the area of her home that day. She called Lazzaro at around 1 PM, Amy Huizenga at 1:43 for 36 minutes, then frantically tried to reach her Mom and Dad, but with no success. She decided to tell no one and go about business as usual.
On June 18th, she returned home when she knew her parents were at work, and decided to bury the body in the backyard. By then, the unwrapped body had been in the trunk for 2.5 days, just what the experts stated. Her cell pings put her at the Anthony home from 2:30-3:30 PM. She pulls the car into the garage, trunk first, and removes Caylee’s body. She borrows a shovel from the neighbors and lays Caylee on the ground next to the playhouse. Thus the positive detection by the cadaver dogs. At first she decides to put Caylee in the pool, faking an accidental drowning. She pulls down the ladder, but changes her mind when she figures the cops will detect the chloroform and know it wasn’t an accident. She then decides to bury her in the backyard, but the ground is too hard and she doesn’t have time to dig a grave. She decides to make it look like a kidnapping, 90% of all kidnap victims have their mouths duct taped shut.
She goes inside, grabs a sheet or blanket, some duct tape and two black garbage bags. ( We now know it was a garbage bag and a laundry bag.) She wraps duct tape around Caylee’s mouth, wraps Caylee in the sheet or blanket, and puts her in a laundry bag and seals it tight. She then puts that bag into a garbage bag, seals it with a twist tie. She then goes back into the garage and puts the body in the trunk. Police believe she was dumped into the woods that day. I say she dumped the body on the 24th, and here is my theory.
As the forensic expert I spoke to stated, the body would give off no smell if tightly sealed in 2 garbage bags. If she dumped the body immediately, why was there no smell on June 24th, but the odor of death on July 15th if there were was not a body in the trunk after the 18th?
Casey kept the body in the trunk until she came to the house on the 24th. George confronted Casey about the gas cans, in which time he looked in the trunk, saw clothes and the cans. He wasn’t looking for a body, so I’m guessing he didn’t notice the trash bag under the clothes. George said Casey threw the cans out of the car, said, “There’s your fucking gas cans,” and took off. George stated Casey came by the house around 2 or 2:30 and stayed for about 10 minutes. Casey’s cell pings put her around her parents home from 2:30-3:30.
After the close call with her Dad getting into her trunk, she decides it’s time to get rid of the body. She drives down to the end of the street, goes to a place that is familiar to her, and backs the car up into the woods. By now, after being in that sealed bag, and in a trunk for 6 days in temperatures well over 100 degrees, the body fluids and gas have escaped and are contained in the bag, making Caylee’s 35 lb body feel more like 60 lbs.
As she pulls the bag from the car, the plastic catches on the trunk latch and pokes a small hole in the bag, releasing the gas and dripping bodily fluids into the trunk. Casey digs a small hole in the ground, puts the bag in the hole and spreads some dirt and leaves over the hole. Remember, when the body was found, the bag was in a very shallow hole.
The next day, Casey calls Amy Huizenga and talks about a terrible smell in her car. Like an animal crawled in her engine and died. She also complains to Lee about the smell, blaming it on dead squirrels. The smell is so bad on the 27th of June, she decides to abandon her car at the Amscot and calls Tony to pick her up. She doesn’t let Tony get near the car as she is waiting for him as he makes the U-turn.
People have asked why she would abandon her car with that smell knowing it would be traced back to her. She wasn’t abandoning the car, she was hoping someone would steal it. The car was not completely out of gas as she stated to Tony. George put gas in the car, but didn’t actually try starting the car before putting gas in it.
There is still so much that will come out in this case over the next few months. I’ve been told more discovery documents will be released in the next few days. Will we finally see Annie Dowlings interview with the lead detectives? Will we see the missing portion of Tony Lazzaro’s interview? In the interview released, we hear nothing mentioned about June 15th, 16th, or 17th. Pretty important dates, don’t you think?
Will we finally hear about fingerprints on the duct tape? Has the Winnie the Pooh blanket found with Caylee’s remains been tied to the Anthony home? Will the interview with Casey’s friend Mark Hawkins be released. As is Florida law, once the defense has seen the discovery, it becomes public record. So obviously, there is a reason some of these interviews have not been turned over to the defense. I believe forensics will be the key in this case, and will bury Casey Anthony once it is released.
Unless this case is pleaded out, we may never know exactly what happened to little Caylee Anthony. I don’t believe Casey Anthony will ever accept a plea deal, that is unless the DA’s office puts the death penalty back on the table. Even then, Casey Anthony might rather die by lethal injection than tell the truth about what happened to her daughter. One thing is for certain: the three ring circus that this case has become is just beginning.
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