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Anthony trial: 'Chloroform' searched on computer

By Ashley Hayes, CNN
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Items including "head injury" and "inhalation" were also searched, expert says
  • No searches for Zenaida Fernandez-Gonzalez were found before July 16, 2008
  • Casey Anthony is accused of killing her 2-year-old daughter in 2008
  • If convicted, she could face the death penalty

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(CNN) -- Someone conducted keyword searches on "chloroform" using a desktop computer located in the home Casey Anthony shared with her parents, a computer examiner testified Wednesday in Anthony's capital murder trial.

The searches were found in a portion of the computer's hard drive that indicated they had been deleted, Detective Sandra Osborne of the Orange County Sheriff's Office testified.

However, she told jurors, deleted material remains on a computer's hard drive and can be retrieved until it is overwritten by new data. It had not been overwritten on the Anthonys' computer, she said, and "a complete Internet history" was obtained.

Anthony, 25, faces seven counts in the death of her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, including first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse and misleading investigators. If convicted, she could face the death penalty.

The toddler's family last saw her on June 16, 2008, but no one alerted police until July 15, when the girl's maternal grandmother tracked down the suspect and demanded answers.

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Prosecutors allege Anthony used chloroform on her daughter and suffocated her by putting duct tape over the little girl's mouth and nose. They allege Anthony put her daughter's body in her car trunk before disposing of it. Caylee's skeletal remains were found in December 2008, less than a mile from the home of Anthony's parents.

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

The searches using the keyword "chloroform" were conducted in March, three months before Caylee disappeared, according to testimony.

It appears the computer user first searched for "chloraform" on Google and received results for "chloroform," said John Bradley, owner of the software development company that created the software used to retrieve the data. One of the search results was from Wikipedia.org, which was accessed, he testified.

It also appeared searches were conducted using terms such as "inhalation," "self-defense," "meningeal artery," "ruptured spleen," "alcohol" and "head injury," he said. The user either typed those terms in to search, Bradley said, or in some instances might have clicked on links on the Wikipedia site to go to a different page.

Searches were also conducted on "how to make chloroform," "neck breaking" and "making weapons out of household products," Bradley testified.

During his cross-examination, Baez attempted to show that the user apparently did not spend a great deal of time looking at the pages referencing chloroform. Only a few seconds elapsed in some cases before the next site was accessed, Bradley said.

Bradley agreed with Baez's assertion that the links do not tell jurors what was on the websites accessed, and that some could have been jokes or information on self-defense. He also agreed he could not say how closely the user was examining the websites or whether a user was looking at multiple browsers.

While there were two user-created profiles on the computer, Osborne told Baez she could not tell who performed the searches.

She also testified she found no reference to chloroform on a computer belonging to Ricardo Morales, Anthony's former boyfriend. Shown a photo Morales earlier admitted posting on his MySpace page featuring a couple with the caption, "Win her over with chloroform," Osborne said either it had been deleted and overwritten or posted from another computer.

She said a keyword search would not necessarily have located the picture, since the keyword was embedded in pixels in the picture. Morales earlier testified he posted the photo as a joke.

Osborne said she also was asked to find any records on the computer relating to a Zenaida Fernandez-Gonzalez. Anthony told authorities Gonzalez, who had been Caylee's nanny for years, abducted her.

Osborne testified she found searches for Gonzalez on people search sites, Google and high school class reunion sites, along with the social networking site MySpace. All of those searches were conducted on July 16, 2008 -- the day after Caylee was reported missing to authorities, she testified.

But Osborne said she found no searches for Gonzalez before that date, another blow to Anthony's claims to authorities that she had been frantically searching for Gonzalez and her daughter during the month before police were notified Caylee was missing.

Anthony's former boyfriend, friends and acquaintances who saw her during that time recalled her shopping, eating out, going to parties and hitting nightclubs, but all of them testified she never mentioned her missing daughter and none of them noticed any change in her demeanor.

Her mother testified that Anthony had moved out of her parents' home about the time Caylee went missing, offering little in the way of explanation, and that when she inquired after Caylee, she was told she was with her nanny.

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Police were never able to find the nanny. They did find a woman named Zenaida Gonzalez, who denied ever meeting Anthony or Caylee and later sued for defamation.

Earlier Wednesday, jurors heard testimony that a second cadaver dog alerted to the potential scent of human remains in the backyard of the Anthony home, but -- like the first dog -- failed to do so again once land in that area was disturbed.

Within three to four minutes of being given a command to search in the yard, "I saw there was an area of interest he kept going back to and sniffing pretty hard," Osceola County, Florida, sheriff's Sgt. Kristin Brewer said of her dog, Bones. The dog made a second lap around the backyard and then gave his final alert -- sitting down, she said.

The alert was within six to eight feet of that made the same day, July 17, 2008, by another cadaver dog, named Gerus, Brewer said -- although she did not find that out until afterward.

She said she and Bones returned to the Anthony home the following day, but several crime scene units were working there and "a lot of dirt, mulch, pavers ... changed the landscape quite a bit."

Bones did not alert to any locations in the yard on the second search, she said. Gerus also did not alert the second day, Gerus' handler, Orange County sheriff's Deputy Jason Forgey, testified Tuesday.

Gerus also alerted to the smell of human remains in the trunk of Anthony's car, Forgey testified Tuesday. When the dog passed around Anthony's white Pontiac Sunfire on July 17, 2008, "he started indicating in the rear of the vehicle," Forgey said. "I could tell he was working something."

After the trunk was opened, Gerus put his front paws inside and then lay down, signaling that he had detected the scent of remains.

Forgey explained the conflicting results in the Anthony backyard by saying that he believed Gerus alerted to a scent on the surface of the land. Once technicians disturbed the surface, he said, the scent was diminished "where the dog wouldn't find it. It was gone at that point."

On cross-examination, however, Forgey said he does not know the real reason behind the conflicting alerts. Still, he said, "in every single time (Gerus has) had an alert besides this case, he's had a find," that is, he found remains.

Brewer offered a similar explanation on Wednesday. "Whatever he was alerting to could have been moved or destroyed or dissipated because of all the work that had been done," she said, "or they may just not have dug enough to find what was below the surface."

A crime scene investigator, the operator of a towing company and members of Anthony's family all have testified they smelled a bad odor coming from Anthony's car after it was found abandoned in a parking lot on June 27, 2008, and then towed four days later.

A bag of trash found in the trunk, which had been sitting there for weeks during a Florida summer, has been suggested as a possible source of the odor. But Forgey told Burdick his dog does not alert on trash, and has been trained around garbage.

Forgey told Baez that he's smelled human decomposition on numerous occasions and "I smelled it clear as day" in Anthony's car.

Also Tuesday, FBI forensic chemist Michael Rickenbach testified he analyzed pieces of Anthony's trunk liner, carpet and parts of the spare tire cover, among other items.

On those, he said, chloroform "residue" was found, but it was at low levels. But he did not want to offer specific levels, saying it would not be appropriate because he conducted qualitative testing, confirming chloroform's presence, rather than quantitative testing, which would detect its level.

Under questioning from prosecutor Jeff Ashton, Rickenbach said the samples were sent to him in a cardboard box, not a sealed container, which could have allowed some of the chloroform to evaporate, lowering the levels present. Having the car trunk open for a time might also lower the levels, he said.

On Monday, Arpad Vass, a senior research scientist at Tennessee's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, testified that the presence of chloroform on a carpet sample from the trunk was found at a "shockingly high" level -- far beyond what normally would be seen in environmental samples.

Both Vass and Rickenbach tested the carpet inside the trunk. However, Vass, who is not a chemist, was attempting to find compounds associated with human decomposition. Rickenbach was specifically testing for the presence of chloroform.

Vass told jurors in the Orlando courtroom that the presence of a decomposing human body is the only plausible explanation for the odor in Anthony's trunk and the results found in forensic testing.

In Session's Michael Christian contributed to this report.

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