Anthony's father breaks down on witness stand

/ Source: msnbc.com staff and news service reports

Casey Anthony's father wrote in a suicide note that he had unanswered questions about what happened to his granddaughter, a revelation that undercuts defense claims that the toddler drowned accidentally and he helped cover it up.

Casey Anthony is on trial for murder in central Florida, accused of suffocating 2-year-old Caylee with duct tape in the summer of 2008. Her remains were found in the woods in December of that year.

Defense attorneys, who have been trying to paint the Anthony family as dysfunctional, say Caylee drowned in her grandparents' backyard pool and Casey's father, George, disposed of the body.

On Wednesday, lead defense attorney Jose Baez asked George Anthony about his January 2009 suicide attempt. But when prosecutor Jeff Ashton later asked Anthony if he had bought a gun five months before that, Baez objected.

With the jury out of the room, George Anthony said he planned to use the gun to try to get his daughter's friends to tell him what happened to Caylee.

He also said he wrote in his suicide note about "unanswered questions" and that he chose to kill himself because "I needed at that time to go be with Caylee because I knew I failed her."

Ashton argued that the statements were valid for the jury to hear because they rebutted the drowning theory and implied that George Anthony didn't know what really happened to Caylee. Ashton also said the suicide note did not include any reference to George Anthony molesting Casey Anthony when she was a child, as Baez claimed in his opening statement.

Judge Belvin Perry agreed the jury could hear about the gun purchase and the suicide note.

"It looks to me like someone opened the door and someone is trying to walk through it," he said.

When the jury came back, George Anthony got emotional as he recounted the months before his suicide attempt, in which he drove to Daytona Beach and tried to overdose on prescription medication.

He also said he never got the opportunity to confront his daughter's friends because law enforcement confiscated the gun the day after he bought in August 2008. Casey was out on bond and staying in his home, and firearms are prohibited in a place where a person on bond is living.

Baez asked George Anthony if he remembered being asked by the prosecution if he had ever molested his daughter, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

"I would never do anything like that to my daughter," the witness said, saying he would "never harm her that way."

The Sentinel reported that Baez quickly fired back: "Only in that way?"

George Anthony was also questioned by the defense about "nice" comments made to his daughter and "negative" comments he made about her to the authorities while Casey was in jail before the trial.

He told the court he was trying to get answers about the disappearance of his granddaughter and help efforts to find her, while keeping his daughter "upbeat." He appeared to dab away tears from his eyes at that point.

He teared up again when asked if he had attempted suicide in January 2009 and if he had left a note. He replied to both questions, "Yes sir, I did."

The defense asked him about what they said were conflicting statements that he had made about whether he had smelled human remains when he went to pick up his daughter's car.

"There was a smell of human decomposition in that car, not the garbage that was there," he said.

'Completely honest'George Anthony insisted he had been "completely honest" in his testimony. "I can close my eyes, sir, and I can smell that again," he added.

Asked why he had driven the car home and gone to work after smelling what he thought were human remains, he said he had made sure the bodies of his granddaughter and daughter were not inside.

"Was I concerned about what was there? Sure," he said, adding "My emotions were all over the place."

During his testimony, the Orlando Sentinel reported that Casey Anthony shook her head and looked upset. After he stepped down during a recess, Cindy Anthony hugged him and took a deep breath.

He returned to give evidence, but later broke down in tears and, despite saying he needed to "get through this," he was led away from the stand.

After a short recess, George Anthony returned to the stand and was asked about his suicide bid. Through tears, he recalled writing a letter to his wife in a Daytona Beach hotel room while drinking and taking pills.

He said he still had "those feelings," and again became emotional.

"I needed at that time to go and be with Caylee," he said, "...because I believed I failed her."

Referring to his suicide bid, George Anthony said if it had not been for law enforcement officers, "I wouldn't be here today."

On Tuesday, the defense scrutinized the testimony of a meter reader who it argues moved the remains of 2-year-old Caylee Anthony so he could collect a reward for the discovery.

The defense has continued to hammer away at forensics evidence at the heart of the prosecution's case against 25-year-old Casey Anthony.

The prosecution says Caylee's remains were in the woods for some six months after she was killed when they were recovered in December 2008.

The defense was been trying to prove they could have been there for much less time to try to cast doubt on prosecution experts who said the body had been decomposing for several months.

'A little odd'
Roy Kronk, the man who reported her remains to the police that December, testified for the defense that the August before, he noticed what he thought was a skull in the same area where Caylee's bones were eventually recovered near her grandparents' home where she sometimes lived. He says he called police three times and they came out to check but didn't find anything.

"I saw an object that looked a little odd to me," Kronk said. "I told them I saw an object that looked like a skull."

Defense attorney Cheney Mason asked Kronk if he touched the object or moved it when he saw it in August.

"I never was closer than 30 feet to that bag," Kronk said.

In December in the same area, Kronk acknowledged to briefly lifting the bagged remains "about four feet off the ground" because they were slightly obscured by some debris. He denied a suggestion by the defense that his motive in moving the remains was to collect a reward.

Mason asked Kronk if he shared what he'd seen in August with anyone else. Kronk said he mentioned it to a roommate, but nothing beyond that. Kronk also denied telling his son in November that he was going to be famous for finding the remains, saying he was "mistaken."

Nearly every member of the jury was taking notes while Kronk testified.

Casey Anthony has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in Caylee's death and could face the death penalty if convicted of that charge.

The prosecution contends she used duct tape to suffocate the toddler. The defense says the girl drowned in her grandparents' swimming pool.