Video: Fla. tot’s mom may return to jail

By Clint Van Zandt
updated 8/29/2008 2:17:24 PM ET 2008-08-29T18:17:24

Many across the country have followed the saga of three-year-old Caylee Anthony, who was reported missing almost a month after her disappearance in mid-June. A three-ring circus has developed around the missing child and her 23-year-old single mother Casey. A large focus has also been placed on Caylee’s grandmother Cindy, who appears almost delusional in her denial of her daughter’s likely role in granddaughter’s disappearance, and who has brought in other people to start a different search. 

Lastly,  Leonard Padilla, a self-described “famous television personality, media whore” and bounty hunter has inserted himself into right into the middle of this circus probably for the tons of media attention that he gained when he and his bail bondsman nephew put up the money to bail Casey out of jail.  Padilla, who initially professed his belief that Caylee was alive, appears to have backed away from this position and now says after one week he will revoke Casey’s bail, effectively sending her back to jail. 

Most who have seen the self-aggrandizing bounty hunter on TV believe that he joined  this case for the media attention he derived, with talk show hosts fighting to get his opinion and thoughts on the missing child.  Investigation has indicated that Casey and Caylee each had a backpack when they moved out of Cindy Anthony’s home shortly before Caylee allegedly disappeared.  At that time Casey was driving a white Pontiac owned by her parents, a vehicle later found abandoned in a parking lot. 

It was the trunk of this vehicle that Cindy Anthony indicated smelled as though it had a dead body in it, a story she later changed to be old pizza.  The forensic evidence developed by investigators in their search o f this vehicle included human hair, unidentified soil and suspected bodily fluid in the trunk of Pontiac, the same car trunk that cadaver dogs responded to positively. 

Investigators have reported that air sample tests from this same car, one that contained one of the two back packs Casey and Caylee had with them when they moved out of the Anthony home, prove that the trunk once held a decomposing human body.  Samples of air from the suspected car were analyzed at the University of Tennessee’s Forensic Anthropology Center.  This particular center consists of a three-acre wooded plot where bodies are placed in different settings and conditions to help investigators understand how human bodies decompose, including those left in car trunks.

Evidence is also being examined by the FBI Laboratory, the results of which have yet to be made public.  The challenge here, of course, is that heat and moisture, as found in the trunk of an abandoned car in Florida, are the mortal enemies of DNA.  If the questioned stain was decomposed bile, for example, it might not contain identifiable DNA, however were the stain to contain human blood that dried quickly, evidence of DNA could be present.  The human hairs found in the trunk have been identified as consistent with or identical to Caylee, and also show signs of decomposition.

As Cindy faces the potential knowledge that her daughter may have somehow contributed to the suspected demise of Caylee, and Padilla considers collapsing his media circus tent and heading home to his cable TV bounty hunter show, investigators have reportedly offered Casey Anthony a sort of deal, partial immunity if she acknowledges that Caylee is dead and leads them to her body.  This could allow, of course, the possibility that Caylee suffering some kind of accidental death and Casey’s actions were part of a cover up of her role in her daughter’s death.  Some have suggested that Casey has provided every appearance of a narcissistic sociopath; someone so into herself and so emotionally removed from others that she might not have bonded with her daughter in ways similar to most mothers.

She did, we are told, attempt to give Caylee up for adoption but was persuaded not to by her mother, Cindy.  And her reports that she spent the month prior to Caylee’s disappearance becoming public knowledge in a desperate search for her missing daughter have been refuted by her live-in boyfriend, their mutual friends, the tattoo artist who gave her a tattoo during this time, and salacious photographs of her at a nightclub when her daughter had allegedly been kidnapped by a non-existent babysitter.

Should Casey have the personality of someone only out for herself, she may make a deal with investigators and prosecutors, but if, and only if, it’s best for her.  But with the tall tales told by her to date, we may have to wade through stories suggesting that whoever kidnapped her daughter also stole her car, thereby accounting for the evidence of decomposition in Casey’s car.  Investigators will tell Casey that it’s time to tell the truth, this while her attorney tries to cut her a deal, her mother continues to blame others for her daughter’s behavior, and the bounty hunter heads home with millions of dollars of free personal advertizing in his back pocket. The rest of us are left to ponder the life and death of a little girl who, like most of us, only wanted to live and be loved.

Clint Van Zandt is a former FBI agent, behavioral profiler and hostage negotiator as well as an MSNBC analyst. His Web site,, provides readers with security-related information.

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