I Was There

Dave Knechel

    There are moments in life when we say, "I was there."
    When Apollo 11 Commander Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon, I watched it unfold LIVE, on glorious black and  white TV. I remember watching John Glenn orbit the Earth, sitting in my grade school cafeteria in delight. Those were but two glorious moments in time, and I was there.
    When President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, we were ushered into the very same cafeteria to be told the news before we were sent home. Visions of the Twin Towers falling from the sky are etched into our hearts and souls, and we will never forget. Tragedies never escape us.
    Today was one of those moments in time. No, Caylee Marie Anthony's death and the discovery of her bones will never reach the magnitude of a national tragedy, but we will never forget her.
    I was in the courtroom at Casey Anthony's trial, and sadly, I saw Caylee's bones. I will forever remember the vivid images of a little girl who will never grow up. There will be no memories for her to share. And there will be no joy when someone asks me if I was there.
    This was the day we heard the audio of Roy Kronk's supervisor calling 911 to report that a small skull - that of a child - was found near the Anthony home. The recording ended with state witness Edward Turso, an Orange County sheriff's deputy, being dispatched to the scene. He and Kronk went into the woods and walked past the skull and other evidence. When they found it, it was left untouched and Turso asked the meter reader to fill out a report back at the vehicles.
    After Judge Perry warned people in the courtroom that graphic and disturbing images were forthcoming, he asked that anyone who might get queasy at the sight to please leave. He then took a short recess. I don't know how many people did not come back, but George and Cindy were gone from their seats. When court returned to order, Jennifer Welch was called to the stand. Welch works for the OCSO CSI Forensic Unit. Immediately, prosecutor Linda Drane Burdick asked her questions about what transpired when she was called to the 8900 block of Suburban Drive on December 11, 2008.
    It was a rainy day when she arrived around 11:25 a.m. Some law enforcement officials were already present. There was dense vegetation everywhere in those woods, which no one had yet breached, and the immediate area was cordoned off with police tape. The mood was somber as Welch broke out her camera and began taking photographs. Her initial images depicted views of Suburban Drive looking at the woods from various angles, including straight-on shots into the path Kronk and Turso took to enter. Some were shot from a short distance, but it didn't take long to step inside the entry that looked like an uninviting arbor; strangled by kudzu. It looked like a perfect spot to hide something.
    To the west of the entry point, there's a light pole. The coordinates supplied by OCSO were very clear - the skull was 87 feet east of the pole, and due south 19 feet, 8 inches from the south curb of Suburban. At the entrance itself, farther east,  the path curves to the right by 15 to 20 feet, give or take. As Welch took carefully choreographed steps into the foreboding woods, her camera did its work. Slowly and diligently she worked until there it was - the skull. Faded. An off-white grayish brown glistening from the rain in what little light there was. Stringy, matted hair strands clung tightly to the tiny, ovate-shaped bone.
    As Welch described her journey and the prosecutor added photo after photo into evidence, Casey kept her head down. As images of the skull grew larger, the jury remained silent. The judge had warned the gallery that any sudden outbursts meant an instant ejection, so I could barely hear a sigh.
    When Burdick was through, Jose Baez arose to cross-examine Welch. No matter, his words sat silent. No one was in the mood to hear questions about contamination of the crime scene when law enforcement entered the woods. Were the scenes staged? Were they tampered with? He alluded to damaging the evidence. Certainly, as a defense attorney, he was well within his means, but after he finished, many of us thought that was the end of the photos. These images had not been as graphic as I expected. Although  they were hideous to think about, I had to look at them from a clinical viewpoint, with as little emotion as possible. It didn't take long before Baez finished, and Welch was excused, subject to recall.
    Steven R. Hanson is a chief medical examiner with the District 9 Medical Examiner's Office. He also took photographs. This time, Jeff Ashton did the questioning. This time, the pictures would be a lot more graphic, but none of us knew that at the time. His early crime scene shots were innocuous enough, and Ashton asked him some compelling questions about his work and the preliminary images he took.  As the clock neared noon, Judge Perry called for a lunch break until 1:30 pm. 
    When court resumed,  Hanson took the stand to pick up where he left off and the judge called the jury back in. This time, the images were extremely graphic.. There were close-up shots of the skull from all directions. Other evidence that was shown in the previous photos was more vivid. It included a black plastic bag, a white fabric bag, a red Disney bag, and a pair of Caylee's shorts. We got a very good grasp of how the duct tape was wrapped around the skull. Several shots of the tape showed the deteriorated outer coating that had separated from the adhesive fabric, as if peeling the skin off a banana. There were scenes of the rotting log that partially hid the skull. 
       Ashton continued with Dr. Gary Utz, who practices anatomic and clinical pathology, plus forensic pathology in Orlando and Cincinnati. He is also a deputy medical examiner for Orange and Osceola counties. Dr. Jan Garavaglia (Dr.G) would have begun the autopsy, but she was heading out of town that fateful December day. He photographed evidence pertaining to Caylee's remains as they came into his lab. Instead of giving you the graphic details, I did some quick sketches as the images flashed before us. This is how the day ended, when Casey fell ill. I will leave you with my sketches. If you have questions, please ask. The drawings are not my best, but they should give you an idea of what we saw. I will answer when I can, but unfortunately, because of iPad logistics, I cannot comment from the courtroom.






Please limit comments to the blog's subject matter. Comments containing profanity and/or personal attacks will not be published.


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Comments, page 1 of 4 1 2 3 4 Next »
Jun 10, 2011 12:06 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

So incredibly sad. Thank you for recapping the day in such detail. How did the jury respond to the images/testimony vs. Casey's state of being today.

I am sure it must have been heartwrenching to see these final images of that beautiful little baby girl.


Jun 10, 2011 01:10 am
 Posted by  KarenC

Wow, Dave. Thanks again for being our eyes. It was something to see the gallery open-mouthed, straining to look up above them, the light reflecting in their eyes, as we saw on TV. But I hate that a day which should have been more about Caylee, a child victim, was again turned into a day of Casey drama-rama, with everyone's attention on her. I'm glad you've chosen to focus on the victim and the crime here, for crime it surely was with the tape affixed in such a manner.

Jun 10, 2011 02:16 am
 Posted by  Waterfall

Dave, is the above a drawing you made, or where did it come from. I have now been able to watch for
a couple days. If these are schetches from someone, did the REAL pictures get presented in trial.

Also I read a couple times where Caylee's body was actually no more than 8 feet off the bank or off the
road, I do not see that mentioned anywhere.

Thanks if you care to update me a little

Jun 10, 2011 04:03 am
 Posted by  Amber

Hi Dave,

Thanks for another outstanding post taking us right into the court house where everything was happening. I appreciate you more and more after hearing some of the major cable stations this evening with their somewhat biased talking heads opining on things no one will ever know for sure. I like the fact that you are fair to everyone. We are watching the outcome of a terrible tragedy and some of the unfounded speculation that networks produce to improve their ratings only make things worse for the victims. I do not think that is what Caylee would have wanted. She probably cared about her grandparents as it is obvious now that George and Cindy's world revolved aroung that child. I do not think for one minute that if Caylee knew what was going on right now that she would want her grandparents to suffer as they are so obviously suffering. Since we don't know exactly what happened, Caylee probably at least until her final moments also cared about her mother and might not wish her any ill, or at least not in the sense that some of the people who speak for justice for Caylee may wish Casey harm. Casey may have made a horrible mistake. It may or may not be classified as first degree murder according to the law. I can't believe that Casey would have selected duct tape as a murder weapon. Caylee was an innocent victim of a horrible tragedy no matter what the truth concerning her end may be. There is no justification or excuse in the world for what happened to Caylee. Casey may or may not have to face the consequences for any action that she took or failed to take with respect to caring for Caylee. However, while a jury may have to judge Casey according to the facts presented in court and the law, I don't see what those of us who may advocate lynching Casey are accomplishing to help Caylee by our venom and anger towards her mother.

Jun 10, 2011 05:12 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

Hi Dave, thank you for sharing with us the things we could not and probably did not need to see. Just hearing it was hard enough for me. I sat here with my heart breaking for little Caylee. The prosecution did a fabulous job yesterday. I was glued to my computer. I later heard someone on TV say that Casey sat there "sobbing". I must have missed that. i did see her wipe a few times but mostly kept her head turned away. I had to wonder if she got ill from hearing about what had happened to Caylee or was it from facing her lies and what she had done. IMO a big liar also has to be a pretty good actress. Which is what I thought she was doing. Most people will tell you when something gets to you that bad your legs are the fist thing to go, but I noticed she was able to exit the room on her own.

Do you think Lee will ever step up to he plate and be honest instead of hostile? He seems to have selective memory only after his words are given to him to read. Surely he can't be as cold hearted as his sister.

I admire HHJP and think he is one of the most honorable judges I have ever watched but wonder how long it will take him to catch on to Casey's antics.


Jun 10, 2011 05:30 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

Dave, LindaNewYork here. Have been reading your articles. Thanks for the recaps of your time in the courtroom.

I have a question regarding the photo's of Caylee's skull. In one of the pictures I saw on WeshTV website, one of the photo captions mentions the "duct tape and a small heart sticker over the mouth" (the skull was pixelled). WAS there a heart sticker over the mouth? While I have been unable to hear all the news on TV and on the blogs, I haven't heard a mention of the heart sticker.

Jun 10, 2011 05:34 am
 Posted by  Dave Knechel

Hi Julie - It was very heartwrenching and, unfortunately, there are more pictures coming. I think the prosecution made its point, so I'd rather the rest of them be left out.

I didn't really see any obvious reaction from the jury. I spoke to a Fox network producer. I wondered whether the jury is instructed by the judge to be unemotional. She didn't know either, so this would be a good question for Mark NeJame. The only time I ever see any real reaction is after the judge addresses them.

Jun 10, 2011 05:41 am
 Posted by  Dave Knechel

Hi Karen - The images were tough to look at, but I was glued to the monitor and didn't see any reactions from people. I did look at the jury and Casey, though, and one of the deputies. I didn't hear any gasps, but I'm sure a lot of people wanted to.

I'm glad you got a better idea about what went on in there. It was unpleasant.

Jun 10, 2011 05:46 am
 Posted by  Dave Knechel

The above drawing is something I did, Waterfall, in my notebook. I drew them mainly for me to use to write, but I figured it might be better to give you and others a chance to see something that offers a better understanding of what we really saw.

Caylee's body was approximately 20 feet into the woods, and one of the witnesses mentioned it yesterday. Also, I found the information about the location a while back when I was reasearching it for one of my videos.

Thank you for writing, I am more than happy to answer you, but it has to be early in the morning.

Jun 10, 2011 05:51 am
 Posted by  Dave Knechel

Hi Amber - I think you have the right attitude about Casey and the trial in general. It's very important to look at this crime through unbiased eyes. I know it's difficult, but that's what I try to do. I try to remain open minded. It's not always easy, but it's the best way to cover a trial like this. Thanks, I appreciate your thoughts on this.

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About This Blog

'Marinade Dave' Knechel

Dave Knechel has been blogging about the Casey Anthony case since late 2008, drawing readers from all over the world. Best known as “Marinade Dave,” a nickname he got when he made marinades and also blogged about marinade recipes, Knechel is on assignment to blog about the case exclusively for orlandomagazine.com as Anthony goes to trial for first-degree murder. His posts will appear regularly on this site.

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