Panicked Grandmother of Toddler Claims 'Dead Body' Smell in Car

Cindy Anthony made two 911 calls about missing Fla. 2-year-old last week.


July 25, 2008 — -- The car driven by the mother of missing Florida two-year-old Caylee Anthony smelled "like there's been a dead body" in it, according a 911 call made by the child's grandmother last week.

At a bond hearing on Wednesday, authorities named Caylee Anthony's mother, Casey Anthony, 22, a "person of interest" in the toddler's June disappearance after investigators found "evidence of decomposition" in the trunk of the same car.

In the calls made by Caylee's grandmother, Cindy Anthony, which were released Thursday, she claimed she had "a possible missing child."

During the second emergency call, Caylee's mother, Casey Anthony, took the phone from Cindy.

"My daughter's been missing for the last 31 days," she told the dispatcher. "I know who has her. I have tried to contact her."

Cindy Anthony has since discounted her comments in the 911 call, claiming that the smell could easily have been garbage in the car.

Casey told authorities that Zenaida Fernandez-Gonzalez, the toddler's babysitter, has the girl, but police have been unable to track down Gonzalez or even determine whether or not she exists.

While Anthony is currently being held on three relatively small charges, including child neglect and obstructing an investigation, her bond was set unusually high as prosecutors said that the case was turning into "what is looking to be a homicide investigation."

Officer Yuri Mellich of the Orange Co., Fla., Sheriff's Missing Persons Unit, called Anthony a "person of interest" after revealing in testimony that samples of hair of similar length and color to Caylee's were found in the trunk of a car owned by the Anthony family and last driven by Casey.

Plus, a police dog trained to seek out the decomposition of human bodies also alerted its handler to the car trunk.

Judge Stan Strickland set Anthony's bail at $500,000 with the restriction that if the bail is posted, Anthony must wear a GPS tracking device at all times.

When handing down the verdict, Strickland voiced his concerns.

"I have some problems with the fact that her conduct just hasn't changed," he said. "She hasn't been any help in this investigation a bit."

Anthony was arrested on July 16 after police learned that she had not reported her child missing until a month after the toddler vanished and Anthony was, according to police, misleading about both where she worked and where the child was.

Three members of Anthony's family -- her mother, Cindy; her father, George; and her brother, Lee -- each testified that, if released on bond, Anthony would be more likely to help assist in the investigation.

"We can confide in each other on a level that we don't feel obligated to share with anybody else," Lee Anthony said, leaning forward in the witness stand. "We can tell each other things that we wouldn't feel comfortable telling even the rest of the family."

Police have not talked to Anthony since she was arrested on Wednesday, but her mother stated in the hearing that Casey would not talk to police about Caylee because she was "afraid."

Strickland suspected there could be an ulterior motive.

"She's using her silence as leverage to get out of jail," he said during the hearing. "And if she gets out, who knows anyway?"

With the bond set so high, and her parents' monetary worth, at Cindy Anthony's estimation, far less than the half million dollars required, it is unclear whether Anthony will be released.

According to Mellich's testimony, suspicions surrounding the Anthony's car began when he noticed a "very bad smell" inside the car during his investigation in the days following Casey Anthony's arrest.

Mellich said hairs of the same length and color of the 2-year-old were found in the trunk, and they've been sent to a forensic lab for DNA testing.

Mellich's suspicions were supported when Officer Jason Forgey, who also testified in court today, and his K9 partner, a "cadaver dog" named Gerrus, searched the car and the dog "alerted to the odor of human decomposition in that car."

Forgey and Gerrus were also among the team that searched the Anthonys' backyard in the days following Anthony's arrest, and though the dog "alerted" to human decomposition there, as well, no body was found.

Mellich questioned family members yesterday concerning Anthony's treatment of Caylee after a tip from a hairdresser corroborated suspicions of abuse he had after seeing a picture of Caylee with a mark under her eye. Each family member said he or she had never witnessed any abuse.

Mellich also revealed during testimony that an unnamed witness believes he talked to Casey Anthony on the phone while she was in contact with Caylee as late as June 24 or 25 -- more than a week after Anthony has claimed her daughter disappeared.

Since their investigation was launched on July 15, some Orange County sheriff's department officers have become well acquainted with the frustrations of following leads based on incomplete information, half-truths and many accidental, and some deliberate, lies.

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 babysitter had disappeared.

Casey's parents both corroborated the story until the hearing today, 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.

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. Though police have been working to track Fernandez-Gonzalez down, efforts have proved fruitless so far.

"I am not disregarding that this person may or may not exist," Mellich said during his testimony. "But Casey Anthony's friends and family have never met this person."

Casey also claimed to have worked for Universal Studios, but admitted later that that was not true.

But what unsettles Orange County Deputy Sheriff Carlos Padilla more than Anthony's imprecise information is her overall attitude.

"She has shown no emotion," Padilla told ABCNews. "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 with a homicide trial possibly brewing on the horizon, and the results of DNA tests on the newfound hairs pending, the Anthony family has not given up hope.

"I don't sleep, so I don't know what day it is. It's all one day," Cindy Anthony said in court today. "I am prepared to do anything I can to find Caylee."