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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Anthony family speaks at Caylee memorial service

Walter Pacheco, Amy L. Edwards and Bianca Prieto

Sentinel Staff Writers
February 10, 2009

An estimated 1,200 people celebrated the short life of Caylee Marie Anthony at a memorial service Tuesday morning at the First Baptist Church of Orlando.

The emotional service for the deceased 2-year-old lasted nearly two hours, the last 45 minutes of which were heart-felt eulogies from the little girl's family.

The Anthony family, minus jailed mother Casey Anthony, took the pulpit after a series of faith-based messages and songs. Lee Anthony, the brother of Casey Anthony, spoke to mourners and asked them to "fill their hearts with compassion and truth.""If it's closure you seek, I hope you find it," Lee said, while his mother Cindy Anthony rubbed his back.

Lee Anthony began to cry and then kissed the band around his wrist that shows Caylee's name. "CMA I miss you. CMA I am so proud of you. I hope you're proud of me, too," Lee Anthony said. "I will never forget the promise that I made to you." (?)

George Anthony followed by saying, "I am proud to be the grandfather of Caylee Marie." He spoke for 10 minutes about his granddaughter and received a standing ovation when he was finished.

Next came Cindy."I remember the day Casey came to me to tell me the news I was going to be a grandmother. I knew that our lives were going to be blessed. . . ."Mostly the things I missed is watching the love she shared with her mother. Casey I hope you're able to hear me today. I love you and wish I could comfort you right now . . . take away all of your pain and wipe away your tears. Caylee was so much like you," Cindy said. "She had your beauty and compassion, your spirit and she will always love you."

Pastor David Uth presided over a service that featured a mixture of sermons and songs, as the Anthonys listened attentively in the front row. A large photo of Caylee was on the church's large screen. Uth delivered a message focused on Jesus' special relationship with children. He seemed to look directly at the Anthonys for most of it.

The Anthonys appeared calm, holding hands and occasionally leaning on each other. They showed faint smiles from time to time as the pastor spoke.

Singer Nancy Rodriguez sang Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On," the theme song from the 1997 film Titanic. George Anthony blew a kiss at her and clapped at the end, smiling. Shane Stutzman, the Anthonys' former pastor at Eastside Baptist Church, talked about dealing with Caylee's death.

"I realize there are many of us that have questions," Stutzman said. "In times like this, it's OK to have questions. It's human to have questions. I wish I could answer each question every person here has."Stutzman said "my role is to remind you who has the answers."

Before the memorial, about 50 to 60 people gathered at a makeshift memorial to Caylee off Suburban Drive, a short walk from the Anthony home.

Sentinel photographer Red Huber, who was given exclusive permission from the Anthony family to be the still photographer of record for the memorial, is already filing photos from the church.

Some visitors put up a wooden heart-shaped memorial that reads "Caylee rest in peace."Five members of the local chapter of the Guardian Angels are at the service. Acting as their spokesman, a man who identify himself only as Colorado, said the group is here "to pay their respects to our friends, the Anthonys. We've been to their house to help establish peace among the protesters," Colorado said of his relationship with the family. "We shutdown a few fights." Caylee, he said, captured the heart of the organization's members." This young lady was beautiful. She was incredible. She deserved to have a long life."

...Meanwhile, Casey Anthony, the dead toddler's mother, has not requested permission to watch the service at the Jail, however; Jose Baez brought a laptop into the jail just prior to the memorial making it possible that with a wireless signal she could have watched it on line, as there was a live-feed from one of the local networks.

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