ORLANDO, Fla. – Jurors in Casey Anthony's murder trial listened Thursday to the woman's nearly hour-long interview with detectives the day after her 2-year-old daughter was reported missing in 2008, as well as recordings of jailhouse visits she had with family members following her arrest.
Lead detective Yuri Melich spent the most time on the witness stand on the eighth day of testimony. The prosecution also called a former acquaintance Anthony claimed knew the woman she initially said took her child, and a theme park manager who confirmed to investigators that Anthony misled them about her employment there.
Anthony, 25, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of her toddler, Caylee. If convicted, she could be sentenced to death.
She has pleaded not guilty and her defense attorney says Caylee died in an accidental drowning in the family's swimming pool. The prosecution says the child was suffocated after duct tape was placed over her mouth.
Caylee was last seen by her grandparents in mid-June 2008. Casey Anthony waited a month before telling her family the toddler was missing. Her mother then called authorities.
Casey Anthony has said she was conducting her own efforts to find her missing daughter, but prosecutors contend she was going to nightclubs, shopping and hanging out with friends during that month.
Anthony told detectives Caylee had called her a day before she went missing, saying, "Hi, Mommy," before talking about books and shoes.
She also said during her July 16, 2008, interview that she would never be able to forgive herself about her daughter vanishing.
As Melich and another detective peppered her with questions, Anthony said she asked the child to let her talk to an adult, but the phone went dead.
Anthony insisted she was not lying when she said a baby sitter kidnapped Caylee on June 9, 2008.
Detectives told Anthony she had lied about everything she had told them since they were called to her family's home the night before. The interview took place in an interview room at Universal Orlando, where Anthony claimed she worked.
On the day of the interview, detectives brought Anthony to Universal. Melich said she was very convincing as she tried talking her way into the employee entrance at the park, telling the security guard that she did not have her identification badge with her.
Universal's assistant manager of loss prevention, Leonard Turtora, testified earlier Thursday that he escorted Anthony into the park, even though he had already confirmed that she was no longer an employee.
Turtora and Melich testified that Anthony pointed to a building where she worked and led them into the office. Halfway down a hallway, she turned to them and said, "I don't work here."
That's when detectives asked for a room where they could talk. On the tape, Melich told Anthony he could not verify the information she provided the night before.
Defense attorney Jose Baez used his cross-examination of Melich to advance the defense's drowning theory. He explored a brief phone conversation Melich said he had with Cindy Anthony, the defendant's mother, on July 16.
Baez brought up Melich's September 2008 deposition in which he said that Cindy told him that day she remembered seeing the gate to the family pool being open and the ladder being up "one day in June."
Melich said he had the opportunity to then ask Casey about that revelation, but he didn't think it was critical information at the time.
On redirection, though, state attorney Linda Drane Burdick pointed out that at no time during or immediately after her interview with Melich did Casey ever suggest Caylee drowned.
The prosecution also began to introduce a series of lengthy recorded jail visits Casey had with family members in the weeks following her July 16 arrest for giving false statements to law enforcement.
Jurors were shown a pair of visits from July 25, first by her brother, Lee Anthony, and then from parents George and Cindy Anthony.
In each video Casey maintained her initial story about alleged nanny Zenaida Fernandez-Gonzalez kidnapping Caylee, despite being told by Cindy Anthony that detectives had started to focus their investigation on her.
"What do you want me to tell Zanny?" Cindy Anthony asked her daughter at one point.
"That she needs to return Caylee ... I just want her back." Casey responded. "I know in my heart that she's not far. I can feel it."
Earlier Thursday, Jeffrey Hopkins testified he never introduced Casey Anthony to the baby sitter. He and other witnesses during testimony have recounted what they say are lies Anthony told friends and law enforcement officers about what happened to her daughter and where she worked.
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