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Mom's bail $500,000 in lost-girl case

ORLANDO — A mother who waited a month to tell anyone about the disappearance of her daughter was named Tuesday as a "person of interest" in what was increasingly being treated as a homicide.

At a bail hearing for Casey Anthony, sheriff's deputies said her car smelled of decomposition, and a cadaver-trained German shepherd picked up a smell of human remains in the car and her yard.

They also said they found a stain, dirt and what seemed to be piece of 2-year-old Caylee Anthony's hair in the trunk of her mother's car.

Circuit Judge Stan Strickland set Casey Anthony's bail Tuesday at an unusually high $500,000, noting that the law did not allow him to hold her without bail.

"Not a bit of useful information has been provided by Ms. Anthony as to the whereabouts of her daughter," Strickland said.

"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.

The bizarre case began when Caylee's grandmother, Cindy Anthony, received a letter telling her that the car her daughter drove was found abandoned June 30 at an Amscot Financial store in Orlando, said sheriff's spokesman Carlos Padilla.

Casey Anthony, 22, and the child had been living with the grandparents before the child disappeared, but had not been home in a month.

Cindy Anthony said that when she questioned her daughter last week about Caylee's whereabouts, she was told that she had dropped the child off on June 9 with a babysitter named Zenaida Gonzalez. When she returned later, they were both gone, she said.

The grandparents called authorities.

Casey Anthony told detectives she didn't call authorities immediately because she was conducting her own investigation, court documents say.

Officials soon learned that the apartment where Casey Anthony said she dropped off the girl hadn't been occupied in months. She also gave detectives a bogus employer, manager's name and work telephone number, authorities said.

That led authorities to charge her with child endangerment, making false official statements and obstructing a criminal investigation.

Casey Anthony's attorney, Jose Baez, said she does not know where her daughter is.

Deputies emphasized Tuesday that they were still looking for the girl — alive — and urged anyone with information to step forward.

Cindy Anthony acknowledged in court that her daughter had lied before, but said she was a caring mom.

The registered nurse believes the child is alive, and Casey Anthony lied to police because she was somehow threatened.

"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 ran with tears at Tuesday's 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.

Mom's bail $500,000 in lost-girl case 07/22/08 [Last modified: Friday, July 25, 2008 3:21pm]
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