Casey Anthony trial: Should investigators have found Caylee four months sooner?
A meter reader says at the Casey Anthony trial he first told investigators of Caylee's remains four months before they were recovered. Was an opportunity lost to collect better evidence?
The man who discovered the skeletal remains of two-year-old Caylee Anthony testified Tuesday in the murder trial of her mother that he tried three times in August 2008 to get the sheriff’s department to investigate what appeared to be a child’s skull in a wooded area not far from Caylee’s home.Skip to next paragraph
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Roy Kronk, a county meter reader, said he called the Orange County Sheriff’s Office on three consecutive days, but no one from law enforcement went into the swampy woods to investigate.
One deputy, after a cursory look around, even berated him for wasting the department’s time with a frivolous report.
Four months later on Dec. 11, 2008, Mr. Kronk said he returned to the same place in the woods near a distinctive log.
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He told the jury that he saw a plastic bag. “I held the bag up,” Mr. Kronk said. “The contents of the bag shifted and that’s when I discovered the skull. It was at my feet.”
Kronk’s testimony has been highly anticipated among those closely following the Casey Anthony murder trial. In most cases, Kronk would be hailed a hero for helping to bring closure to the grim vigil for the missing toddler. But defense attorneys are hoping to use the unusual circumstances surrounding the discovery of Caylee’s remains as a way to suggest reasonable doubt to the jury.
In his fiery opening statement, defense attorney Jose Baez accused Kronk of moving and hiding Caylee’s remains.
“We are not saying he had anything to do with her death, but he is a morally bankrupt individual who took her body and hid her,” Baez said back at the start of the trail on May 24.
It is unclear why Kronk – or anyone else – would risk the legal consequences of tampering with evidence. Defense lawyers have suggested that he needed money and was hoping to receive a $255,000 reward offered in the nation-wide search for Caylee. But hiding the remains would not boost the reward.
Rather than implicating Kronk in some ill-defined conspiracy, his testimony on Tuesday raises serious questions about the basic competence of investigators with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.
Had law enforcement responded to Kronk’s first phone call to police on Aug. 11, forensic experts would have had a significantly better chance to lift fingerprints, DNA, or other direct physical evidence from the deteriorating duct tape found near Caylee’s skull.
The defense suggests that police conducted thorough searches in the wooded area and were unable to locate Caylee’s decomposing body because it had been moved and hidden for a period of time.
Prosecutors maintain it was not detected because the area was underwater for much of the summer due to a tropical storm and heavy rains.
The truth may never be known. Kronk testified that the first time he entered the wooded area on Aug. 11 – less than two months after Caylee is thought to have died – he saw a gray vinyl bag and what looked like it might be a small human skull. He said there was no peculiar odor in the area.
Later that night he called the sheriff’s department. “I don’t know what it is,” he told the dispatcher. “I’m not saying it is Caylee or anything. This could be nothing.”