ORLANDO, Fla. May 27, 2011 -- The father of Casey Anthony found maggots and smelled "something that you never forget" when he opened the trunk of his daughter's car and said a quick prayer that the odor was not from his missing granddaughter or his daughter.
George Anthony testified today for the third time in his daughter's murder trial. Casey Anthony, 25, is accused of killing her 2-year-old daughter Caylee in the summer of 2008. She could face the death penalty if convicted.
Forensic evidence in Anthony's car will be pivotal in the murder trial, experts have said. The car tested positive for chloroform and human decomposition and a strand of Caylee's hair was found in the car's trunk.
George Anthony's voice wavered and he took deep breaths as he recalled his feelings after arriving with wife, Cindy, at a tow yard on July 15, 2008 to retrieve the Pontiac Sunfire that Casey Anthony had abandoned.
George Anthony said that he smelled a "pretty strong odor" as he approached the car.
"I was very concerned about the odor. I had smelled something like that some years prior and I was concerned," he said.
Casey Anthony's father, a former police officer, testified that the odor was that of a decomposing human body.
"That particular smell whenever you smell it, it's something that you never forget. It's a very distinct odor," George Anthony said.
As George Anthony moved towards the back of the car, he hoped he wouldn't find his daughter or granddaughter dead in the trunk.
"Please God don't let this be Casey or Caylee," he recalled saying "in a high whisper" before opening the trunk.
He did not find any dead bodies, but a bag of trash and maggots.
Testimony Shifts From Casey Anthony's Behavior to Casey Anthony's Car
"It relieved me a little bit to know that I could not see anything in there as far as my daughter and granddaughter inside," he said.
Still, George Anthony testified that the smell of human decomposition was so strong, he drove the car home with all windows down and said it would have been impossible to drive with the windows up because of the stench. He told his wife that he wanted to leave the tow yard, saying, "We need to get this car home."
He testified that he parked the car in the garage and opened all the windows. He inspected it, noticing a stain on the spare tire cover that he'd never spotted before.
George Anthony left home to start a new job that afternoon and his wife said that she would get in touch with their daughter, Casey. Cindy Anthony ultimately called 911 that day to report Caylee was missing and that her daughter's car smelled like there had been a dead body in it.
The supervisor of the tow truck company that removed Casey Anthony's abandoned car while her daughter, Caylee, was missing also testified today that the car smelled like a dead body had been in it.
Simon Birch, the operations manager for Johnsons Wrecker Service during the summer of 2008, said that Anthony's white Pontiac Sunfire had been on the tow yard's lot for three days when he examined the car's exterior in early July.
"I put my hand up to the glass to shield the sun and look through the windows. At that point, I did notice a fairly strong odor emanating from the vehicle," Birch said. "The instant flash in my mind was, whoah, I know what that smells like."
Birch, a 30 year veteran of the towing industry, told jurors that he can distinguish between the smell of human decomposition and the smell of garbage.
Birch said that when he and George Anthony opened the car door, "the smell came out very instantly … very potent. It was eye opening…. In the back of my mind, I said to myself that' s the smell of decomposition."
Birch said that while walking from the tow company's office to the car, George Anthony apologized for an outburst by his wife when they first arrived at the tow yard. George Anthony told Birch that the couple was stressed because their granddaughter was missing and their daughter wouldn't tell them where she was, Birch testified.
"We'll probably get divorced over this," the tow operator remembered George Anthony saying.
Anthony's car was abandoned at Amscot, a financial services company. It was noticed by employee Katherine Sanchez on June 27, 2008. Sanchez mentioned an odor around the car, but was unsure where the odor came from since the car was backed into a parking space next to a dumpster. She said the car had a blanket in it, but could not provide details about what was on the blanket.
Caylee Anthony's remains were found wrapped in a Winnie the Pooh blanket, stuffed in plastic bags. The prosecution claims she died from three pieces of duct tape on her nose and mouth, although the medical examiner was never able to determine a cause of death. The defense claims the girl accidentally drowned on June 16, 2008, and that Casey never told anyone.
This morning's testimony about Casey Anthony's car marks a shift from days of former friends and family testifying about Casey Anthony's behavior in the days she knew her daughter was missing but hadn't alerted authorities.
At the start of this morning, defense attorney Jose Baez called for a mistrial. Baez claims that Casey Anthony's character has been derided by the barrage of witnesses called by the state describing his client's behavior in the month she claimed she was looking for Caylee. Judge Belvin Perry denied the need for a mistrial.
Testimony in Casey Anthony Murder Trial to Deathly Odor in Her Car
The morning started with an emotional moment when the fiancee of Casey Anthony's brother broke down in tears describing the young mom's relationship with her daughter Caylee.
"It was amazing," said Mallory Parker. "Casey and Caylee had a really, a very special bond."
Anthony, 25, also cried as she listened to her future sister-in-law describe how Anthony cared for Caylee.
Parker was reportedly so distraught after her testimony that Lee Anthony, Casey Anthony's brother and Parker's fiance, consoled her, the Orlando Sentinel reported.
This morning, jurors watched surveillance video from places like Target, JC Penney, Ikea and grocery store Winn Dixie. The videos showed Anthony shopping throughout late June and early July when her toddler daughter was missing but police had yet to be alerted.
Caylee Anthony was last seen alive June 16, 2008, but wasn't reported missing until July 15, 2008. Her remains were found in December of that year.