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After arrest, Casey Anthony insisted her focus is on finding Caylee

By Ashley Hayes, CNN
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Detective takes stand in Anthony case
  • NEW: Casey Anthony cries during jailhouse visits with her parents, brother
  • She says at one point she is "protecting our family"
  • Anthony is accused of killing her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, in 2008
  • If convicted, she could face the death penalty

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 jail visits with her brother and parents following her arrest, Casey Anthony alternately cries, giggles, expresses love to her relatives and insists her sole focus is finding her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, according to tapes of those visits played for jurors in her capital murder trial on Thursday.

"If you can speak to the media directly, my concern for me is Caylee," a tearful Anthony tells her brother, Lee Anthony, on July 25, 2008, from an Orange County, Florida, jail. "No one has said for me that I love my daughter, that I want her safety and that she and the rest of my family is my only concern. All I want is to see her again, to hear her laugh, to see her smile and to just be with our family. Nothing else matters to me at this point."

The same day, Anthony's mother, Cindy Anthony, asks her during a visit, "Are you protecting Caylee? Are you protecting me?"

"I'm protecting our family, yes," Anthony replies. "Not from anything I've done."

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"Is someone threatening us?" Cindy Anthony asks, then asks again after receiving no answer.

"Just leave it at that, please," her crying daughter replies, adding that she will write her and elaborate. The family was careful about what they discussed, mindful the conversations were being recorded.

Now 25, Casey Anthony 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.

The taped conversations occurred at a time when tips were pouring in to authorities on Caylee's whereabouts. The little girl was last seen June 16, 2008, but was not reported missing until a month later. Her skeletal remains were found in December 2008, not far from the Anthony home.

Asked during the visit what Anthony wants her mother to give the media as a message to Caylee, Anthony breaks down as she says to tell her daughter "that Mommy loves her very much, and she's the most important thing in this entire world to me, and to be brave. I truly, truly love that little girl, and miss her so much."

"I know in my heart, I know in my gut, I know with every ounce of my being that we will be with (Caylee) again," she tells Lee Anthony during a July 28 visit.

Anthony gives her visitors information on places to look for Caylee and shares information in an effort to track down a person named Zenaida Fernandez-Gonzalez, saying she was a nanny who kidnapped the little girl.

After the playing of the first taped conversation between Casey and Lee Anthony, Baez moved for a mistrial, saying it had damaged his credibility in the eyes of the jury. In the conversation, Lee Anthony tells his sister that Baez might not pass along messages or information to her if he deemed it not in her best interest.

Orange County Chief Judge Belvin Perry Jr. denied that motion, saying Baez should have raised the issue months ago.

Earlier, jurors heard a tape of a police interview in which, under intense questioning, Casey Anthony admits she had purposely misled investigators attempting to find Caylee, but maintains the little girl was kidnapped by Gonzalez.

The interview with an Orange County sheriff's sergeant and two detectives was conducted July 16, 2008, in a conference room at Universal Studios. It came after the officers had accompanied Anthony there, only to have her confess that, despite her previous claims to the contrary, she no longer worked there.

In the interview, investigators pleaded with Anthony to tell the truth about what happened to Caylee.

"None of us are sitting here believing what you're saying because everything that's coming out of your mouth is a lie," Detective Yuri Melich told Anthony during the interview. "Everything. And unless we start getting the truth, we're going to announce two possibilities with Caylee: Either you gave Caylee to someone that you don't want anyone to find out because you think you're a bad mom. Or something happened to Caylee and Caylee's buried somewhere or in a trash can somewhere, and you had something to do with it. Either way, right now it's not a very pretty picture to be painting."

Asked later whether Gonzalez accepted money, Anthony said, "I would not have sold my daughter. If I wanted to really just get rid of her, I would have left her with my parents and I would've left. I would've moved out. I would've given my mom custody."

Later that day, after authorities failed to find Gonzalez in a database of Florida driver's licenses, Anthony was arrested on suspicion of giving police false information, obstructing an investigation and child neglect.

"Did you ever locate the Zenaida Fernandez-Gonzalez that Ms. Anthony described to you?" prosecutor Linda Drane Burdick asked Melich, who took the stand Wednesday. "No, I did not," Melich answered.

Authorities did find a woman named Zenaida Gonzalez, who denied ever meeting Casey Anthony or Caylee and later sued for defamation.

On cross-examination, Baez expressed skepticism that Melich did not suspect Anthony at that point of foul play in Caylee's disappearance. Melich said he did not, although he knew Anthony had lied, and "I couldn't understand why the mother of a missing child would go to (this) extent if we're just trying to find her child."

But, he said, Anthony was "adamant" that she was telling the truth about Gonzalez the nanny kidnapping her daughter.

Earlier, prosecutors set about debunking Anthony's previous statements to her friends and family, presenting testimony that she never had a wealthy suitor named Jeffrey Michael Hopkins and she had not worked at Universal Studios since 2006, despite years of claims to the contrary.

A man named Jeff Hopkins testified that while he knew Anthony from middle school, her claims of dating him and him introducing her to Gonzalez were fabrications. Hopkins, 26, said his name wasn't even Jeffrey Michael Hopkins -- the name Anthony had given as a wealthy suitor living in Jacksonville, Florida, with a son named Zachary.

Hopkins said he had no children and described Anthony as an acquaintance. He said he has never lived in Jacksonville and that while he once worked at Universal Studios, he was not there at the same time as Anthony.

Asked by Baez whether all Anthony's stories were "one great fiction," Hopkins said, "Yeah, that's correct."

Following Hopkins to the stand was Leonard Turtora, assistant manager of loss prevention at Universal Studios. Turtora testified that after he was contacted by authorities investigating Caylee's disappearance, he searched the Universal Studios database and found Anthony had not worked there since 2006 -- and even then worked for a third party, Colorvision, that operated on Universal property.

According to testimony, Anthony claimed to work as an event planner at Universal Studios until after Caylee was reported missing.

She was forced to own up to the lie after detectives brought her to Universal Studios and met Turtora there. She directed them to a building Turtora said he knew was not an events building.

"Melich began to look around and asked if we were in the events building," Turtora said. "Ms. Anthony looked at me, put her hands in her back pocket and stated, 'I don't work here.'"

The name Juliette Lewis, given by Anthony as another co-worker, also was not found in the database, nor was a Zenaida Gonzalez. Anthony had told authorities after Caylee went missing that Gonzalez had a seasonal ID for Universal but was working only as a nanny.

Melich was called back to the stand Thursday. On Wednesday, he had testified about a written statement from Anthony and an interview he conducted with her in the early morning hours of July 16, just after Caylee was reported missing. A recording of that interview was played for jurors Wednesday.

Asked whom she had told about the kidnapping, which supposedly had occurred 31 days earlier, Anthony said in the interview she had told no one besides Hopkins and Lewis. Asked for their phone numbers, Anthony told Melich she didn't have them at present but could find them.

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."

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.

Just after Caylee was reported missing, Anthony accompanied deputies to an apartment she said was Gonzalez's. An apartment manager testified that apartment was vacant at the time and that a Zenaida Gonzalez had never lived in the complex.

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. Earlier Wednesday, her brother, Lee Anthony, testified. Neither side asked Lee Anthony about sexual abuse allegations during his testimony on Wednesday.

In the July 25 interview, Casey Anthony cries as she tells her father, "You've been a great dad and you've been the best grandfather. Don't for a second think otherwise."

After the jury left for the day, prosecutors told Perry that defense attorneys had just notified them of a new expert witness. Perry said the potential witness, Dr. Sally Karioth, should prepare a report, as all expert witnesses must, and outline what she will testify about. He said he would rule later on whether to allow the witness to testify.