Fla. mom's trial opens with explosive accusations

May 25, 2011 - 2:57 AM

Casey Anthony Trial

Casey Anthony listens during the first day of her murder trial at the Orange County Courthouse on Tuesday, May 24, 2011. Anthony is on trial for the murder of her 2-year-old daughter. (AP Photo/Red Huber, Pool)

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The murder trial for a Florida mother charged in the death of her 2-year-old daughter began with explosive allegations and two very different theories about how the little girl died.

For the first time, prosecutors said Caylee Anthony died from three pieces of duct tape being placed over her mouth and nose. A defense attorney for the mother, Casey Anthony, claimed the toddler drowned in the family pool and the toddler's grandfather helped cover up the accident. The attorney, Jose Baez, also leveled accusations that Casey Anthony was sexually abused by her father, an allegation he disputed when he took the stand Tuesday as the first witness in the trial.

Wednesday will feature more witnesses for the prosecution.

Casey Anthony, 25, is charged with first-degree murder. If convicted, she could be sentenced to death.

The contrasting explanations about how Caylee died were offered to the jury in part because an autopsy was never able to conclude a cause of death. But prosecutors believe they have enough circumstantial evidence to prove Casey killed her daughter during the summer of 2008.

Casey Anthony waited a month before telling her mother Caylee had disappeared, and that was only after her parents, George and Cindy Anthony, had recovered a foul-smelling car Casey had been driving, prosecutors said. The vehicle was picked up from a towing lot.

During the month Caylee was missing, Casey Anthony went shopping, visited friends and hung out with her boyfriend. Between each description of how Casey Anthony spent her time, prosecutor Linda Drane Burdick told jurors: "Where is Caylee Marie Anthony?"

She also described Internet searches done on a computer at Casey Anthony's home that showed queries for chloroform, neck-breaking and alcohol.

Prosecutors said everything Casey Anthony did was based on a web of lies.

"Casey Anthony ... appeared to be ... a loving mother, trying to provide support for her daughter," Burdick said. "But as the evidence in this case will show, that was an illusion."

Baez, the defense attorney, laid out a laundry list of accusations to explain Casey Anthony's behavior, including that George Anthony molested his daughter, that her brother, Lee, also made advances toward her and was given a paternity test to see if he was Caylee's father. All those secrets eventually led to the cover up of Caylee's drowning, Baez said.

"You will hear about a family that is dysfunctional," Baez said. "Ugly things. Secret things."

Baez went even further, saying George Anthony planted duct tape matching the brand later found over Caylee's mouth in a way that would implicate his daughter.

"George Anthony took certain steps to make sure he was as far away from this situation and that Casey would end up taking the blame for this," Baez said.

George Anthony told jurors Caylee didn't die at his house, and he denied disposing of her body and placing duct tape over her face.

"I would have done everything possible to save my granddaughter if what was said happened, happened," he said.

Baez also picked at prosecution assertions that the odor emanating from Casey Anthony's car was caused by a decaying body. It was actually from a bag of garbage that had been left in the trunk, he said.

"Reasonable doubt is not sprinkled through this case," Baez said. "Reasonable doubt lives here."

Casey Anthony previously said a baby sitter kidnapped the girl, but her attorney suggested a different set of events during his opening statement.

Baez said Caylee and her grandmother swam most of Father's Day on June 15, 2008, and suggested that Cindy Anthony forgot to pull up a ladder that prevented the toddler from climbing into the pool on her own. Baez suggested that Caylee slipped into the pool the next day when no one was looking.

The distraught family panicked and didn't call police, he said.

"Casey should have called 911. That's what she's guilty of, she's not guilty of murder. This is not a murder case," Baez said.

Jurors were shown images on a screen of a photo of Caylee taken on Father's Day alongside an image of the little girl's skeletal remains.

A meter reader discovered Caylee's remains, some as small as a pebble, in a wooded area in December 2008 about a half-mile from where the child lived. Her skull was covered with duct tape that had residue from a heart-shaped sticker on it.

Baez questioned whether the meter reader, Roy Kronk, actually found Caylee's bones where he said he did or whether he moved them from another location. Baez didn't explain where Kronk may have initially found the remains.