ORLANDO — Pieces of a tiny skeleton found in swampy woods can tell authorities one thing: Caylee Anthony, reported missing when she was 2 years old, was killed. What they can't help explain, authorities said Friday, is how or when she died.
Authorities say DNA tests conducted on remains match Caylee's genetic profile. But the only clue they give about her death is that her bones didn't suffer trauma, said Orange County Medical Examiner Dr. Jan Garavaglia. The bones were found by a utility worker last week less than a half-mile from where the child lived,
Caylee's mother, 22-year-old Casey Anthony, was indicted in October on first-degree murder and other charges, even though no body had been found.
She has insisted that she left the girl with a babysitter in June, but the child was not reported missing until July.
Officials said a search team did not check the wooded area where the bones were found sooner because it was submerged from the summer's heavy rains.
But Roy Kronk, the utility worker who tipped officials repeatedly and eventually found the remains, said he began alerting authorities to "something suspicious, a bag, in the same area" in August.
The remains are still undergoing tests. Some of the bones were as small as a pebble and had been scattered.
Garavaglia — the star of cable TV's Dr G: Medical Examiner — said authorities identified the remains through DNA and concluded she was slain through "circumstantial evidence." She said she didn't expect further testing to reveal a specific cause.
Caylee's grandmother first called authorities in July to say she hadn't seen the girl, whose third birthday passed shortly after her disappearance, for a month. Her daughter's car smelled like death, she said.
Police interviewed Casey Anthony and said everything she told them was false: The babysitter was nonexistent, the apartment where Anthony said she had last seen Caylee had been empty for months, and Anthony lied about where she worked.
Other details emerged: Photos surfaced of Anthony partying after her daughter went missing. Friends said she was a habitual liar, but also a good mother.
Last month, the Orange County State Attorney turned over almost 800 pages of documents showing someone used the Anthonys' home computer to do Internet searches for terms like "neck breaking" and "household weapons."
In mid March, someone searched Google and Wikipedia for peroxide, shovels, acetone, alcohol and chloroform on a computer at the Anthony home. Traces of chloroform, which can induce unconsciousness and is a component of human decomposition, were found in the trunk of Casey Anthony's car, the documents say.
Casey Anthony's trial is scheduled for March. Prosecutors will not seek the death penalty.
Without a firm cause of death, a lawyer can suggest to a jury that labeling the death a homicide is speculation, said attorney A. Russell Smith, immediate past president of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
"Juries are particularly conscientious in homicide cases because the penalties are so severe," Smith said. "So, to the extent that there are gaps in critical evidence, it makes the prosecutor's job much more difficult."