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In jail visits, Casey Anthony's mother sought answers

Casey Anthony's parents Cindy and George leave the courtroom during second day of daughter's murder trial in Orlando
Casey Anthony's parents Cindy and George leave the courtroom during second day of daughter's murder trial in Orlando

By Barbara Liston

ORLANDO, Fla (Reuters) - The mother of accused child killer Casey Anthony asked pointed questions about 2-year-old granddaughter Caylee's fate in a video of a jailhouse visit played on Thursday for jurors.

"Are we going to be able to find her, do you think?" Cindy Anthony asked her daughter on July 25, 2008.

Casey said she hoped so.

"Do you think after this long she'd still be local?" asked Cindy, who at that point was leading a nationwide search for the toddler.

"She's not far. I know in my heart she's not far. I can feel it," Casey said.

Jurors watched three hours of jail visitation videos on Thursday, part of the prosecution's first-degree murder case against the 25-year-old Florida mother who faces the death penalty if convicted.

Prosecutors contend Casey killed her daughter on June 16, 2008 and hid her body in the woods a short walk from the Anthony family home.

Caylee's skeletal remains were found in December 2008 with duct tape wrapped three times around her skull, nose and mouth.

Testimony at the trial in Orlando has shown that Casey lied repeatedly to her mother and friends about the toddler's whereabouts.

Cindy finally called 911 on July 15, 2008 to report Caylee missing after finding Casey's car smelling of death at an impound lot and confronting her daughter, who claimed Caylee had been kidnapped by a nanny.

Defense attorney Jose Baez contends Caylee drowned in the family's backyard pool and the death went unreported.

In the jailhouse videos, Casey's parents repeatedly encouraged her to talk to the detectives who were trying to find Caylee, but Casey claimed they twisted her words. Cindy and George Anthony offered to get an FBI agent or other law enforcement officer that their daughter could trust.

'SHE WAS VERY PERSUASIVE'

Earlier Thursday, jurors heard a taped interview detectives conducted on July 16, 2008 with Casey, shortly before arresting her on charges of providing false information to law enforcement officers, obstructing justice and child neglect.

On the recording, Casey insisted that Caylee had been kidnapped by a nanny, even as she also admitted to the detectives that everything else she had told them was a lie.

"I dropped her off at the (nanny's) apartment," Casey told detectives in a tense exchange.

"No you didn't," a detective responded.

"That's exactly where I dropped her off," Casey said.

"No you didn't. And who did you drop her off with?" the detective said.

"I dropped her off with Zenaida," Casey said.

"No you didn't," the detective said.

By then, Detective Yuri Melich testified, he knew the apartment identified by Casey had been vacant for months and no one named Zenaida Fernandez-Gonzalez had ever lived in the apartment complex. Many other details provided by Casey about Caylee's disappearance had not panned out, he said.

That interview was conducted at Universal Orlando, where Melich testified he had gone to try to verify Casey's claim that she worked there along with the nanny and two friends whom she said she had confided in about Caylee's disappearance.

One of the friends was Jeff Hopkins, who Casey told her mother was a wealthy former boyfriend whose son Zachary sometimes stayed with Zenaida. Casey claimed to have traveled with him to Jacksonville to rekindle their romance.

A man named Jeff Hopkins testified on Thursday that he was an acquaintance of Casey's in middle school but that, otherwise, "It's not me."

Melich determined that Hopkins worked at Universal from 2001-2002, and Casey had once worked for a Universal subcontractor but not since 2006. Neither Zenaida nor the other friend named by Casey had ever worked at the theme park.

Melich testified that two other detectives brought Casey to Universal's employee entrance. Melich said Casey acted as if she worked there and led the detectives to a building where she claimed she worked.

"She was very persuasive," Melich testified. "Even at this time, I could not imagine this was a ruse."

However, once inside the building, Melich said, "She stops, turns and looks at us and says, 'I don't work here.'"

(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Greg McCune)

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