The mother of a missing 2-year-old is a person of interest in a case that is beginning to look like a homicide, prosecutors said Tuesday. Sheriff's deputies said they still hope to find the girl alive.
Casey Anthony, 22, is charged only with child neglect and lying to investigators. Circuit Court Judge Stan Strickland set her bond at $500,000 Tuesday, saying the law did not allow him to hold her without bail.
He set the unusually high amount after hearing about evidence of human decomposition allegedly found in Anthony's yard and car. Her daughter, Caylee Marie Anthony, has been missing since mid-June.
"Not a bit of useful information has been provided by Ms. Anthony as to the whereabouts of her daughter," Strickland said. "And I would add that the truth and Ms. Anthony are strangers."
Anthony is charged with child neglect, making false official statements and obstructing a criminal investigation. Authorities say she did not report the girl missing until last week, and only then at her own mother's insistence.
Sheriff's deputies said Anthony's car smelled of decomposition, and a cadaver-trained German shepherd noted a smell of human remains in the car and her yard. They said they found a stain, dirt and what seemed to be Caylee's hair in Anthony's trunk. A search of the yard turned up no body.
"The risk of her flight if she is released on some low bond increases exponentially, especially now that she's heard this additional evidence and that she is their person of interest," said assistant state attorney Linda Drane-Burdick.
Still searching for child
Deputies emphasized they were still looking for the girl — alive — and urged anyone with information to step forward.
Defense attorney Jose Baez requested bond around $10,000. He said Anthony's family can't pay a high bond and she has the right to freedom while facing lesser charges.
"This is not a capital case, and if it were they certainly would file it, if they had evidence to," Baez said. "There is circumstantial evidence of a possible homicide, I will give them that. But circumstantial evidence has not made them confident enough to charge her with any specific homicide or kidnapping, or any capital offense."
Anthony's parents became concerned after her car was towed from a check-cashing business where it had been parked for days. She and the child lived with her parents, and she told them she worked as an event planner at an area theme park.
Investigators say Anthony was unemployed, and a purported babysitter seems to never have existed. The mother and child hadn't been home in the month before investigators were notified that Caylee was missing. Investigators believe the girl's father is dead.
'We love you'
Anthony's mother, Cindy Anthony, acknowledged in court that her daughter had lied before, but said she was a caring mom. The registered nurse believes the girl is alive, and Casey Anthony lied to police because she was somehow threatened. Cindy Anthony said she would even sell her house to free her daughter.
"I know Casey as a person," she said. "I know what she is for a mother and I know there's only one or two reasons why Casey would be withholding something about Caylee. I believe that it's something that someone is holding over her and threatening her in some way."
Casey Anthony's face filled with tears at the hearing, watching her parents at the witness stand and again after Strickland set bail.
"Casey, we love you!" yelled Cindy Anthony as the courtroom cleared.
Her daughter nodded and sobbed before being led away in chains.