ORLANDO, Fla. >> 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 and again painted her family as dysfunctional during the murder trial Tuesday of the girl’s mother.
The defense continued to hammer away at forensics evidence at the heart of the prosecution’s case against 25-year-old Casey Anthony, who has pleaded not guilty in her daughter’s death. 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 is trying to prove that 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.
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 was 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.
The prosecution contends Casey Anthony used duct tape to suffocate her daughter in summer 2008 while the defense said Caylee drowned in her grandparents’ swimming pool and that other members of the family covered up her death. If Casey Anthony is convicted of first-degree murder, she could face the death penalty.
The defense is expected to call a grief expert to begin Wednesday’s testimony. Defense attorney Jose Baez also told the judge that he has about a half-dozen more witnesses to call before resting, but didn’t say whether that included Casey Anthony.
On Monday, the judge, after reading psychologists’ reports, ruled Anthony was still competent to stand trial and could understand the case against her.
The Anthony family was again under scrutiny during the trial that has lasted more than a month.
They gave differing accounts about an argument over Casey’s mother, Cindy, perhaps sending private investigators to the area where Caylee’s remains were eventually found. Cindy Anthony denied in testimony that she ever did, but her son, Lee Anthony, said he vividly recalled an argument they had shortly before October 2008 in which she told him she had gotten a psychic tip to have the area searched.
"I was quite angry," Lee Anthony testified. "It was the first time I heard anybody in my family offer up they were looking for a deceased Caylee."
Casey’s father, George Anthony, denied telling a volunteer helping search for Caylee that his granddaughter died in an accident. He also denied having an affair with Krystal Holloway.
In testimony, George Anthony said he knew her by the name River Cruz and that he had visited her home a handful of times in 2008, but said it was only to comfort her as she dealt with a brain tumor.
"I did go there just to console her," George Anthony said during the sometimes contentious examination by Baez. "…She also explained that to my wife, sir."
He also denied ever telling the woman that Caylee’s death was "an accident that snowballed out of control."
"I never confided in any volunteers or anybody on the search," he said. "Never did."
Earlier in the morning, a former search leader used his constitutional right against self-incrimination to avoid answering a question about his time searching for the toddler from August to December 2008.
Mason asked former Texas Equusearch team leader Joseph Jordan why his testimony Tuesday differed from previous statements he gave to law enforcement.
Mason eventually asked Jordan if he’d ever been threatened with felony prosecution, and Jordan invoked his Fifth Amendment rights.
The prosecution objected and the jury was sent out. Following arguments by both attorneys about the question, Judge Belvin Perry ruled that he would instruct them to disregard that Jordan invoked that right.