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Casey to police: Getting Caylee back is 'the only thing that matters'

By Ashley Hayes, CNN
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High drama in Casey Anthony trial
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Detective denies he considered Casey Anthony a suspect from the outset
  • Anthony told authorities she didn't report the girl missing out of "fear"
  • She says she has looked for her daughter every day
  • Casey Anthony is accused of killing her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, in 2008

Tune in to HLN's "Nancy Grace" at 8 ET for live reports from Florida with all the details of the Casey Anthony trial. And follow the action on Nancy's special Casey Anthony trial page.

(CNN) -- In a written statement provided to police just after her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, was reported missing, Casey Anthony told authorities she had looked for the little girl every day for a month, and "after 31 days, I know that the only thing that matters is getting my daughter back," according to testimony in her murder trial Wednesday.

"I have lied and stolen from friends and family to do whatever I could, by any means, to find my daughter," Anthony said in a written statement to the Orange County, Florida, Sheriff's Office. "I avoided calling the police or notifying my family out of fear. I have been, and still am, afraid of what has, or may happen to Caylee."

Caylee was last seen June 16, 2008, according to testimony. She was not reported missing until July 15, 2008.

Casey Anthony, 25, is charged with seven counts in Caylee's death, including first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse and misleading police. If convicted, she could face the death penalty.

She has pleaded not guilty and denied harming her daughter or having anything to do with the little girl's disappearance or death. Defense attorney Jose Baez has said that once all the facts are known, it will become clear his client is innocent.

Yuri Melich, who was the lead investigator assigned to the case from the sheriff's office, testified Wednesday that he reviewed the written statement and interviewed Anthony in the early morning hours of July 16. A recording of that interview was played for jurors Wednesday.

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Anthony told him that Zenaida Fernandez-Gonzalez, Caylee's nanny for the past year and a half to two years, had kidnapped the child. She told Melich she had met Gonzalez through a friend, Jeffrey Hopkins, and that Gonzalez had also watched Hopkins' son.

Asked who she had told about the kidnapping, Anthony said she had told no one besides Hopkins and a co-worker at Universal Studios, Juliette Lewis. Testimony in her trial has shown that Hopkins and Lewis apparently do not exist and that Anthony apparently did not return to her job at Universal Studios after giving birth to Caylee in 2005, although she led her family and friends to think she still worked there.

Asked for phone numbers of Hopkins and Lewis, Anthony told Melich she didn't have them at present but could find them.

Authorities were never able to find the nanny. They did find a woman named Zenaida Gonzalez, who claimed she had never met Caylee or Casey Anthony and later sued for defamation.

Asked by Melich during the interview why she hadn't notified authorities for the 31 days Caylee had been missing, Anthony said, "I think part of me was naive enough to think that I could handle this myself, which obviously I couldn't. And I was scared that something would happen to her if I did notify the authorities or got the media involved, or my parents, which I know would have done the same thing. Just the fear of the unknown. Fear of the potential of Caylee getting hurt, of not seeing my daughter again."

She denied injuring Caylee or leaving her anywhere, and raised her right hand at the end of the interview to swear she was telling the truth.

"Every day I have gone to malls, parks, any place I could remember Zenaida taking Caylee," she said in the written statement. "I have gone out and tried to find out any information about Caylee, or Zenaida ... going to a popular bar, or restaurant."

Prosecutors allege Anthony was not looking for her daughter during the month she was missing. Instead, she was staying with her boyfriend, spending time in Orlando with numerous friends, attending parties, going shopping and hitting nightclubs, including participating in a "hot body" contest, according to testimony.

Her former boyfriend, friends and acquaintances have all testified that she did not mention her daughter being missing during that time and that they noticed nothing different about her demeanor.

Anthony told police she had received a call from her daughter July 15 but does not say in her statement what conversation the two had. Earlier Wednesday, her brother, Lee Anthony, testified she had told him about the phone call when she admitted Caylee was missing and that she said she had told Caylee to put an adult on the phone.

Following the interview, Melich testified that Anthony directed him to several residences in Orlando where she said Gonzalez lived or had previously lived. He testified he learned later that one of the residences was across the street from where Anthony's former boyfriend, Ricardo Morales, lived, but she did not mention that at the time.

On cross-examination, Baez tried to get Melich to say that he considered Anthony a suspect and her story untrue from the outset, but Melich denied that.

After arguing the issue outside the presence of the jury, Baez agreed not to question Melich at this time on whether he was a blogger, "Dick Tracy Orlando," who had written about the Anthony case after Orange County Chief Judge Belvin Perry Jr. appeared disinclined to allow it.

Earlier Wednesday, the first police officer to arrive at the Anthony home on July 15 after Caylee was reported missing testified that Casey Anthony was initially reluctant to provide him with information regarding the little girl's whereabouts.

Orange County, Florida, sheriff's Cpl. Rendon Fletcher told jurors that he asked Anthony about her daughter, but "she really didn't say much. ... She wasn't very forthcoming with anything, any type of information, initially."

But, he said, eventually Anthony told him that "her daughter had been missing for a period of time," about a month, and that the last time she had seen Caylee was in the custody of the nanny, Gonzalez.

She agreed to show the deputies where Gonzalez's apartment was, rode with them to the Sawgrass Apartments and pointed out a second-floor apartment, Fletcher testified. When he approached the apartment, he said, he could see the blinds were open but saw no furniture inside, and "it appeared to be vacant." He knocked, he said, but got no answer.

Amanda Macklin, community manager for the Sawgrass Apartments, testified Wednesday afternoon that the apartment in question, number 210, was vacant at the time Anthony led deputies there. She said she researched the last occupant of the apartment, but that person was not named Zenaida Gonzalez -- and, in fact, a Zenaida Gonzalez had never lived in any apartment at the complex.

Caylee's skeletal remains were found in December 2008 in a wooded field not far from the home of Casey Anthony's parents, George and Cindy Anthony.

Prosecutors allege that Anthony used chloroform on her daughter and then suffocated her by putting duct tape over her nose and mouth.

Anthony's defense has claimed that the little girl drowned in her grandparents' pool on June 16, the day she was last seen, and that Casey Anthony and her father panicked and kept the death a secret. George Anthony has denied that claim in testimony.

Casey Anthony's defense attorney explains her behavior in June and July 2008 by saying she had been sexually abused as a child by her father -- and, to a lesser extent, her brother -- and was taught from a young age to hide her pain.

George Anthony has also denied abusing his daughter in previous testimony. Neither side asked Casey Anthony's brother about sexual abuse allegations during his testimony on Wednesday.

Cross-examining the officers who were at the Anthony home the night of July 15, 2008, Casey Anthony's defense attorneys managed to establish that George Anthony appeared calm, compared to his upset wife.

Lee Anthony did testify Wednesday about a confrontation between his mother and sister on the night of July 15, just before Cindy Anthony called police. The two were arguing about Caylee's whereabouts, he said. At that point, according to Cindy Anthony's previous testimony, she had not seen her daughter or granddaughter for weeks.

Casey Anthony kept insisting the little girl was with her nanny, Lee Anthony said, and could be picked up the next day. She maintained Caylee was already asleep by that point and she didn't want to disturb her or disrupt her routine.

Lee Anthony told jurors he offered to go get Caylee or have his roommate do it. He said he was becoming frustrated with his sister, as "nothing was making sense to me. Why couldn't we or anybody just go get Caylee and bring her home? There's no reason to fight with Mom at this point."

He said his sister told him that their mother had told her she was an unfit mother, adding, "Maybe I am." When he asked her why she wasn't allowing her family to see Caylee, however, Casey Anthony said something to the effect of, "Because maybe I'm a spiteful bitch," he recalled.

But Lee Anthony said as he questioned her, a crying Casey Anthony eventually told him the little girl was missing and that the nanny had kidnapped her, he testified.

On Tuesday, a former friend of Casey Anthony's testified that Anthony was growing more frustrated with her parents around the time Caylee was last seen.

Amy Huizenga said Anthony complained frequently about her parents, particularly her mother. "I remember she told me her mom had told her she was an unfit mother. She was extremely upset about that," she said.

Huizenga said Anthony had to cancel plans "fairly frequently" because she had no one to watch her daughter. It was happening more frequently during the spring of 2008, Huizenga said, and the "frustration was greater."

Lee Anthony and Huizenga also referenced a bad odor regarding Casey Anthony's Pontiac Sunfire. The odor has been the subject of testimony by several witnesses. Prosecutors allege it could have stemmed from human decomposition.

During cross-examination, Fletcher, the deputy, told Baez the garage door was open when he arrived and he walked through the garage, but did not notice a foul odor coming from the car. Other officers said they did notice the odor.