The bones and skull found near the home of missing toddler Caylee Anthony have been determined to be the skeletal remains of the little girl, police concluded today.
Using DNA testing, officials identified the remains of a young girl found last week as the missing Florida toddler. Caylee's mother, Casey Anthony, is being held on first degree murder charges.
The bones showed no evidence of trauma before Caylee's death, but her death is being ruled a "homicide of undetermined means," said Orange County Chief Medical Examiner Jan Garavaglia. The medical examiner has asked for toxicology tests to be performed on the girl's remains.
The announcement brings just one tragic answer to a mystery that has gripped the nation since Casey Anthony reported the 2-year-old missing a month after she disappeared in June. It is not clear whether Caylee died before or after her third birthday on Aug. 9.
"There's been an open wound in the community. We can start putting some closure to those open wounds," said Orange County Sheriff Kevin Beary during an emotional moment in his news conference. "The bottom line is, folks, no child should have to go through this."
Investigators have found "most of the skeleton" since an Orlando utility worker called in the discovery of a skull and other remains on Dec. 11, a sheriff's spokesman told ABC News today. The remains were found in a wooded area less than half a mile away from the home of Caylee Anthony's grandparents, an area where trash and dead pets were routinely dumped.
Garavaglia said that the child's remains were scattered and "completely skeletonized," but neither she nor the sheriff would discuss what other evidence was found with the bones.
Beary said Caylee's family was notified, including her mother and her grandparents. The sheriff said the usual routine at the jail where Casey Anthony is being held is for a chaplain to deliver the news.
According to Beary, the Sheriff Department's focus will now shift towards preparing for Casey Anthony's homicide trial.
"This has been a long case, but it's by far not over with yet," Beary said. "We've got a lot more to do to get it ready to go to trial."
The meter reader who found the body came forward today to say he tried to alert investigators back in August.
Click here to hear the 911 call.
Ray Kronk, 46, denied suggestions that he was associated with the case apart from having discovered the skeleton.
"His participation in this matter is strictly as a concerned citizen with a sharp eye, good instincts and perserverance," said Kronk's lawyer David Evans. "He has no connection to this case, to the Anthony family or any of the proceedings that have gone on before."
"He will continue to cooperate with authorities," Evans said.
According to police, Kronk had made multiple calls trying to alert authorities to search the area. Police believe he returned to the area last week "out of curiosity."
Kronk is not a suspect in the case, sheriff spokesman Angelo Nieves said.
"This is just a decent citizen," said Carlos Padilla, an officer with the sheriff's department. "He sounds credible. He doesn't sound like he's making this up."
Kronk called in a tip on Aug. 11 but only told police the general area where he saw a gray and black bag and did not meet the responding detective, Padilla explained. The detective did not find anything suspicious and cleared the area. The man called again on Aug. 12 and Aug. 13, at which point police returned to the scene but again did not find anything to raise their suspicions.
"It's just baffling that the sheriff's department wouldn't have found a body if it was there in August," Brad Conway, the attorney for Caylee's grandparents George and Cindy, told "Good Morning America." "[Caylee's] grandparents are obviously disturbed by the new finding and results from the sheriff's department. All along they wanted each and every tip followed up closely to avoid this scenario."
Padilla told ABC News that police are investigating the "thoroughness" of the response, but said the area had a significant amount of water flooding many parts.
"We're trying to make sure -- is it possible that we missed an opportunity to locate these remains back in August?" Padilla said.
Caylee Anthony disappeared in June but was not reported missing by her mother, Casey, until a month later.
After a search warrant was executed on the Anthony home, police were seen taking boxes and bags of evidence out of the house. On Tuesday, Padilla told ABC News that "evidence is mounting."
Jose Baez, Casey Anthony's defense attorney, motioned twice to gain access to evidence in and from the crime scene and was twice rebuffed by Judge Stan Strickland.
"The grid area has been expanded... We have a situation in which we have been accused of possibly delaying our release of the location," Nieves said Thursday. "Obviously that has been proven incorrect by the thoroughness of investigators today. They continue to work, process and scour the location as thoroughly as possible."
Frustrating, Curious Investigation
The case began with an emergency call from Casey Anthony's mother, Cindy Anthony in mid-July.
On the tape, she is heard frantically telling emergency operators, "I can't find my granddaughter. ... There's something wrong. ...I found my daughter's car today and it smelled like there's been a dead body in the damn car." Casey Anthony then got on the phone and reported she may have a missing child.
Cindy Anthony later retracted that statement, saying that the smell in the car could have been from garbage.
As investigators would quickly learn, this would only the be first of many twists and story changes in the curious case.
CLICK HERE for a timeline of the case.
Lies, Half-Truths and Incomplete Information
Since their investigation was launched on July 15, some Orange County officers have become well acquainted with the frustrations of following leads based on incomplete information, half-truths and what one officer said were "smoke bombs."
In the original version of events, Caylee's mother reported her missing to police, saying she had dropped the child off at a babysitter's house on June 9. When she went to pick the child up, both the child and the baby sitter had disappeared.
Casey's parents both corroborated the story until a bond hearing on July 25 when Cindy Anthony said that the last time she saw the child was not on June 9, but on June 15, and that she had just been confused.
When police questioned Casey Anthony about her daughter prior to her arrest, they say Anthony misled them multiple times.
The Phantom Baby Sitter
When she took police to the apartment where she said the babysitter, Zenaida Fernandez-Gonzalez, lived, they found that no one had lived in the apartment for five months.
At that time, lead investigator Yuri Mellich said, "I am not disregarding that this person may or may not exist, but Casey Anthony's friends and family have never met this person."
After an extensive search for Gonzalez, a woman with the same name came forward in September to tell authorities she had never met Casey or Caylee. Police cleared her of any involvement.
Casey also claimed to have worked for Universal Studios, but admitted later that that was not true.
The Forensics Reports
Scientists found evidence of body decomposition and traces of chloroform in Casey Anthony's car trunk, according to forensics reports released in October.
Lab reports from the FBI found that a hair strand in the trunk showed "characteristics of apparent decomposition." The hair is "microscopically similar" to hair strands found on Caylee's brush, but the report said it could not conclusively say the hair in the trunk came from the missing girl.
Casey had been considered a "person of interest" in her daughter's disappearance since mid-July after police reported in a bond hearing that they believed they found that evidence of decomposition in the car.
Casey's Curious Attitude
But what unsettled investigator Padilla more than Anthony's imprecise information is her overall attitude.
"She has shown no emotion," Padilla told ABCNews in July. "That's unusual. At the time of the interviews ... she didn't seem concerned and that made this case much stranger."
"She spoke to deputies like she was talking about baseball. How do you get through to someone like that?" he added.
But Anthony revealed the entire range of emotion in videos of jailhouse conversations between her and her parents, which were released Dec. 5.
In the more than 300 minutes of video released by the Orange County Sheriff's Department, Casey Anthony is shown laughing, crying and growing frustrated with the investigation and her family's questions.
When her mother, Cindy Anthony, confronted her with lead Detective Yuri Mellich's suspicions that she had had something to do with Caylee's disappearance, her daughter dodged the issue.
"Yuri [Mellich] has it set in his mind. He thinks you've done something to Caylee," Cindy Anthony told her. At that point, her daughter got up and, when she returned, steered the conversation in a different direction.
Casey Anthony also said that she knows the conversations are being recorded and said,"there are things [she] directly needs to say" to each of her parents.
And to her missing daughter, Caylee, Anthony asked her mother to pass along a message that "Mommy loves her very much, and that she's the most important thing in this entire world to me. And to be brave."
Padilla said last week that the discovery of the skull may provide some certainty in such an uncertain case.
"Time is on the investigation's side now," he told ABC News. "The Anthonys have tried to throw smoke bombs. Now we have the luxury of taking our time. We're going to be methodical."