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Friday, July 18, 2008

Search for Missing Fla. Toddler Continues

Investigation Continues as Neighbors Say Mother Borrowed Shovel Last Month
July 18, 2008

The search continued Friday for Caylee Anthony, a Florida toddler who disappeared five weeks ago but was only reported missing on Wednesday, police said.

Late Thursday night, Orange County Sherriff's deputies dug up the backyard of Caylee's grandparents' home after they received a tip from a neighbor claiming the girl's mother, Casey Anthony, borrowed a shovel from them a month ago, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

Meanwhile, in an interview with Orlando ABC affiliate WFTV, the mother's former fiancé was cryptic when asked whether Casey Anthony could have killed Caylee, age 2.

"I don't want to say yes or no to that. I really don't know," Jesse, who didn't want his last name used, told the TV station.

According to police, Caylee's 22-year-old mother told them she dropped off the child with a babysitter on June 9. The sitter, Zenaida Gonzalez, whom Anthony claims to have known for four years, had watched Caylee on and off over the last year and a half, Anthony said.

Anthony told police that when she returned to the apartment after work there was no answer, according to a police report. She says she began to search places that she knew Gonzalez visited but was unable to locate Caylee or the babysitter.

Anthony said that she has been conducting her own investigation but never went to authorities.

"Detectives are very concerned," Deputy Sheriff Carlos Padilla of the Orange County Sherriff's Office tells ABCNews.com. "We are talking five weeks here. The quicker you call, the easier it is to track someone down."

Frustrated investigators held a press conference Thursday afternoon to plead for the public's for assistance in tracking down Caylee.

"We are no further than we were yesterday at this time," said Padilla.

Authorities were finally notified of Caylee's disappearance on Wednesday after her grandmother, Cynthia Anthony, called police, she told ABCNews.com.

"I first learned Caylee was missing on Tuesday of this week. I found something that put Casey in Orlando instead of Jacksonville and she was without Caylee. When I found out I called the police," said Cynthia.

"Casey was an excellent mother. A loving mother. I have no reason to doubt anything other than that," she added.

According to police, Anthony has made excuses for her daughter's absence over the past month, including telling friends that Caylee was at Disneyland, Universal Studios or the beach with her "nanny."

"Mommy kept making up excuses as to where Caylee was, and the grandmother finally located [Anthony] and was insistent in seeing Caylee. The daughter finally told her and the grandmother said we have to call the police," said Padilla.

Once the investigation began, police discovered that the apartment that Anthony claims to have dropped Caylee off at on June 9 has been vacant since February 29.

Anthony was transported in an unmarked car with Orange County investigators to the last three known locations for Gonzalez in hopes getting more information. One residence turned out to be a senior-only facility, and at another no one could verify that Gonzalez or Caylee had been there.


Casey Anthony has spun quite the story for her parents and for investigators. She says that she left Caylee with a friend of hers, Zenaida Fernandez-Gonzalez, on Monday, June 9. Anthony says she dropped Caylee off at the Sawgrass Apartments in Orlando with Zenaida, who was supposed to babysit, but somehow lost track of both the sitter and her two-year-old for weeks on end.

So far, police have been unable to locate Zenaida or even prove that she exists. The apartment where Anthony says she left her daughter a month ago has been vacant - for five months. Anthony’s timeline is “of interest”, say investigators, and while they initially stopped short of calling Casey Anthony a suspect, her lack of interest in her daughter’s whereabouts, her emotionless responses during interviews, and her mounting stack of lies all lead in one direction.
The lies didn’t stop - or start - with the apartment. Casey Anthony’s parents last saw their grandchild when Casey took Caylee and moved out of their home well over a month ago. They’d call Casey, asking to see their granddaughter. Were Casey and Caylee all right, at least? Casey Anthony always said yes, always said that she had Caylee with her. They were living with friends. Everything was fine.
For more than a month, Casey Anthony lied to her parents. That story fell apart on July 15, when Cindy and George Anthony confronted their daughter and reported Caylee missing to police.

At that point, Casey Anthony’s story changed to the “Zenaida” one. She said that when she went back to get her child on June 9, she wasn’t there. But instead of calling police or her parents, she “did her own investigation”, going to clubs where “Zenaida” was known to hang out. Why? Because she’d seen movies where kids got killed if the police were called.
Anthony also told police that she worked at Universal Studios Florida. She gave them her bosses’ name and number, even. I don’t know what she thought they were gonna do with that besides check it out, but as it turned out, Anthony was fired from that job in 2006 and hasn’t held a job since. And two of Casey’s friends told investigators that Anthony would say Caylee was at a theme park or the beach when they asked about her in recent weeks.

Caylee is two and a half years old. She is Caucasian, with light brown shoulder-length hair and hazel eyes. She is approximately three feet tall and weighs about 35 pounds.
Because of the timeline concerns, it’s not even certain that June 9 was when she was last seen.
Casey Anthony is being held at the Orange County Jail without bond pending further investigation.
Currently, she is charged with child neglect and obstructing an investigation by lying to law enforcement officers.
One boyfriend is listed as Ricardo Morales. A newer boyfriend, who contacted police and has been cooperative, was named as Anthony Lazzaro. He says Casey told him her daughter, who he met once on June 2, was always “with the nanny”.

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