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Nancy Grace

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Tot Mom Murder Trial: Prosecution Opening Statement

“It is time to tell the story of a little girl named Caylee,” Prosecutor Linda Drane Burdick said Tuesday morning as she launched a two-hour opening statement at Casey Anthony’s trial for her 2-year-old daughter’s murder.

Burdick called Caylee Marie Anthony’s home life with her “doting grandparents” before her June 16, 2008 disappearance “every little girl’s dream.” However, she quickly shifted her focus to what happened between the last photo grandmother Cindy Anthony took of Caylee on June 15 and the first photo taken of her remains on December 11.

Casey Anthony cried at several points during Burdick’s presentation, such as when she described Caylee’s remains, and she shook her head as Burdick recounted some of the lies she allegedly told her family and investigators.

Burdick devoted the first half of her statement to painstakingly detailing Casey Anthony’s actions and movements every day during the 31 days that Caylee was missing between June 16 and July 15, 2008 with the constant refrain of “Where was Caylee Marie Anthony?” She cited cell phone records and statements of family members and friends, contrasting what Casey Anthony was telling her mother with what the evidence shows she was actually doing.

The last time anyone other than Casey Anthony saw her daughter alive, according to Burdick, was at 12:50 pm on June 16, 2008 when grandfather George Anthony left home for work. That day, Casey Anthony told her mother she and Caylee were spending the night with her babysitter, “Zanny,” while she would actually be staying with her boyfriend Tony Lazzaro—without Caylee.

Burdick’s presentation laid out a sort of alternate timeline of the places Casey Anthony claimed to be over the next month to deflect Cindy Anthony’s almost-daily queries about where her granddaughter was, including an extended trip to Tampa for a conference (for the job at Universal Studios that she falsely claimed she still had), where Zanny supposedly got into an accident and Casey needed to stay to care for her at a hospital while Caylee stayed in a hotel with Juliette and Annabelle, two women who prosecutors say did not exist.

As the weeks dragged on, Casey claimed to be staying with a co-worker, Jeff Hopkins, for a few days, then for several nights with a woman described as either a relative or roommate of Zanny’s. When Cindy finally became so frustrated that she went to Universal Studios looking for Casey on July 3, 18 days after Caylee was last seen, Casey told her by phone that she was in Jacksonville with Hopkins.

Days later, Casey said she was still stuck in Jacksonville because her car had broken down and would not be returning until July 12. On July 15, George and Cindy Anthony learned Casey’s car had actually been in an Orlando wrecking yard since being towed on June 30.

Throughout this month of alleged lies, Burdick portrayed Casey Anthony as hanging out with friends, shopping and going to nightclubs, citing surveillance images from banks, JC Penny and Blockbuster and photos taken of Casey partying at night.

When Burdick finally reached July 15, the day Cindy Anthony confronted her daughter and called police, she talked about the three 911 calls the jury would hear. She also detailed the first time “a new, a bigger and a better lie” emerged: that the babysitter, Zenaida Fernandez Gonzalez, had kidnapped Caylee.

According to Burdick, Anthony’s pattern of coming up with new lies when confronted with the truth continued when she was interviewed by detectives and challenged by clear evidence that she was not telling the truth. She cited Anthony’s first handwritten statement given to authorities that night, saying the first words she wrote for the sheriff’s office about her daughter’s disappearance—that she last saw Caylee when she dropped her off at Zanny’s apartment on June 9—were a lie.

Burdick’s opening statement then moved on to the forensic evidence found in Anthony’s car and at her parents’ house, including the scent of remains picked up by cadaver dogs and Dr. Arpad Vass’ tests confirming the presence of the odor of human decomposition. She also detailed evidence from the computer in the Anthony home about searches related to chloroform conducted on March 17 and March 21, at times Burdick said nobody but Casey Anthony could have been using the machine.

Burdick closed by talking about the discovery of Caylee’s remains on December 11, 2008 and the three pieces of duct tape covering the nose and mouth of her skull. She told the jury that tape was distinctive, was not widely available and was consistent with tape found on George Anthony’s gas cans and on a missing child poster for Caylee.

Suggesting that the prosecution may point to the duct tape as a murder weapon, Burdick said there was no reason for the placement of those strips of tape “other than the specific intent to end that child’s life.” She promised the jury that, at the end of the case, they will have no trouble reaching the verdict that Casey Anthony is guilty of first-degree murder.

The defense opening statement is expected to begin after a lunch break at 1:10 pm.

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