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Casey Anthony trial: Prosecution’s case left key questions unresolved

With the conclusion of the prosecution's circumstantial case in the Casey Anthony murder trial, several mysteries remain, including how her daughter died and why, and who is Casey Anthony?

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Defense lawyers have suggested Caylee’s death was accidental, but the details of their scenario are highly unusual. They say the toddler died in the swimming pool and was found by both George Anthony and Casey. Rather than call 911, the father and daughter tried to cover up the death by hiding the body. The father-daughter connection was further complicated, defense lawyers say, by a history of sexual abuse.

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Despite years of investigation and a massive effort to solve one of the nation’s highest-profile cases, state prosecutors have been unable to introduce a single piece of direct evidence linking Anthony to the murder of her daughter.

In addition, there has been no evidence or testimony suggesting Anthony had ever harmed or mistreated her daughter.

Instead, prosecutors have built their case around circumstantial evidence that they say points inexorably to Anthony’s guilt.

Hair

A single nine-inch strand of hair was found in the trunk of Casey’s car. According to an FBI forensic expert it was consistent with Caylee’s hair and showed signs that it might have come from a decomposing body. The hair evidence is important because it suggests that someone may have placed Caylee’s dead body in the trunk of Casey’s car.

But studies are inconclusive about whether hair is a reliable indicator of a dead body. In addition, even if Caylee’s body was in the car there is no evidence of who placed it there. Prosecutors assume that since it was Casey’s car anything in the trunk would have to have been placed there by her.

Smell

Several witnesses testified that they noticed a strong, distinctive stench in Casey’s car in the summer of 2008. Several witnesses said it smelled like a decomposing human body. A research scientist at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory who has studied human decomposition for 20 years testified that the stench in the trunk was the unmistakable odor of human decomposition.

Chloroform

The same research scientist measured air and carpet samples in the trunk of Casey’s car and found unusually high levels of chloroform. Investigators also discovered that someone had performed an Internet search on a home computer during two days in March 2008 concerning chloroform and how to make chloroform. The searches were performed during times when Casey Anthony’s parents were out of the house at work and she could have been home alone with Caylee.

There is no indication that chemicals were purchased and mixed, or how or where they might have been purchased and mixed. In addition, tests performed on Caylee’s bones showed no presence of chloroform or other toxic substances or drugs.

Duct tape

Prosecutors say the murder weapon was three pieces of duct tape that were recovered near Caylee’s skeletal remains on Dec. 11, 2008. They were each six to eight inches long and investigators suspect they were placed over Caylee’s nose and mouth, causing suffocation.

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