Thursday, May 21, 2009

Dissecting Cindy Anthony's Statement: What "Maggots in the Trunk" Could Tell Us

by Karen Chabert, RN

When Casey Anthony’s car was found, her father went to pick it up at the impound lot. George Anthony stated to the FBI that the smell was immediately identifiable as decomposition. He said he was praying that it would not be the body of his daughter Casey or granddaughter Caylee in the trunk. He should know that smell. He was a law enforcement officer and has smelled that unmistakable odor before. As a forensic nurse death investigator, I can tell you, the smell is one you never forget.

As pieces of information in the disappearance of toddler Caylee Anthony came forward, we heard her mother, Cindy Anthony, cry out to reporters, "There was a bag of pizza for what, twelve days in the back of the car, full of maggots. It stunk so bad. You know how hot it's been. That smell was terrible."

If you take her statement and dissect it (no pun intended), there are many small bits of information that may raise more questions:

· "There was a bag of pizza for . . . twelve days . . ."

If there had been a bag of pizza in the trunk for 12 days, wouldn’t the pizza have been dried up by then, making it no longer tasty to our forensic friends, the hungry maggots?

· ". . . full of maggots. It stunk so bad. . . ."

What is the life cycle of a maggot? From what I have read, the life cycle of a maggot is around 10 days, and by that time, the maggot is now a fly. Cindy didn’t say anything about flies emerging from the trunk. Given the timeline, I would imagine flies would have emerged from the trunk in a small swarm.

· "You know how hot it’s been."

This takes in to consideration the ambient temperature and the temperature in the trunk and the effect of the environment on decomposition. Hotter temperatures cause more rapid decomposition.

So, now that we have considered the maggot theory, I pose the question: What if there were maggots in the trunk?

OK, let’s say the maggots were still in their customary feeding frenzy. Did you know that while maggots are in a feeding frenzy, you can hear them? I’ve read that it sounds like Rice Krispies. Like the smell of decomposition, that would be one sound I would never forget! Talk about goose bumps!

Take it one step further and if we may now presume there were maggots in the trunk, there is a wealth of information that can be gleaned from analyzing those maggots.

Toxicology or drug screens can be performed to test for the presence of any drugs in the body of the maggots' host at the time of death. In my reading, there was a person who died of a cocaine overdose and maggots were feasting in a very speedy fashion. With that said, depressant ingestion by the deceased prior to death would induce the opposite in terms of speed of maggot activity, i.e., they would slow down considerably.

If Caylee was given chloroform as her mother’s chemical babysitter, there might just be a way to tell: Maggots!

Also, DNA analysis of the maggots can be done to determine just who were they feasting on. Yes, human DNA can be extracted from maggot guts to identify the body.

However, I haven’t heard anything about the maggots except from Cindy Anthony. Did she inadvertently let something slip?

Therefore, I submit the question: If there maggots in the trunk, were they collected as the important evidence they have the potential to be? And if so, were they analyzed?

Such evidence could be significant for the Anthony prosecution. If the stomach contents of maggots collected from Casey Anthony's trunk revealed the maggots were feeding on a host with Caylee's DNA . . . that would place the child's dead body in her mother's car.

You may never look at maggots in the same way again. Let's hope you don't have to see them . . . or smell them . . . or hear them. Yikes!

Known as a "Crime Fighting RN," Karen Chabert is a Forensic Nurse Death Investigator, a Legal Nurse Consultant, and a licensed Private Investigator. She is the director of the Legal / Forensic Department of a national consulting firm and President of Dynamic Nursing Associates, LLC. She has been a Forensic Nurse Liaison to Law Enforcement and has worked as a Death Investigator for an urban level one trauma center. Based in New Orleans, Louisiana, she has lectured around the United States and in Canada.


A Voice of Sanity said...

. . . that would place the child's dead body in her mother's car. . .

I don't doubt that the child's body was in the car, nor that Casey disposed of it (unless there is some other remarkable explanation). However this is still not a felony, just a misdemeanor.

Anonymous said...

Hooray for the enhanced DNA and Forensic evidence that can lead to prosecuting criminals. I believe that it must be an extremely rewarding profession, and many times you are the voices that speak for the dead. I know that women commit some grisly crimes, but I wish there were some stronger penalties for the young pretty criminals that think their looks will play to their advantage in the courtroom.

C.K. said...

Anon, are you suggesting that pretty people should get harsher sentences? Or that people who try to play up their looks somehow should be given harsher sentences than average or ugly people? If so - how is this to be determined? A jury poll over whether they found the defendant attractive or whether they felt the defendant had taken too much care with their looks?

Leah said...

Excellent post, Karen. That explains a lot and it will be interesting to se what the trial brings out.

Levi said...

A Voice of Sanity, the body was in the car. The trunk of the car had Caylee's hair in it. That hair showed that Caylee was dead. It was hair from a decomposing body. The trunk also had chloroform. It had her guts in it where she decomposed all the while her mother attended no clothes parties and hung out at bars making out with other women.

It is obvious the body was in that car.

Anonymous said...

I have no doubt that Casey killed Caylee. However, I do not believe she murdered her. I think that she accidentally killed her by sedating her so she could go out and panicked.

And I think her parents know it too.

(I also find it ironic that Levi relies on the "junk science" in this case but will not stand to buy it in the JonBenet case)

Levi said...

Please tell me about the "junk" sciene in this case, and the "junk science" in the Ramsey case?

I don't want to re-hash the Ramsey case in this post, but if you're talking about DNA ruling out the Ramsey's, think again because fibers from John Ramsey's sweaters were found in the crotch area of JonBenet's underwear along with the DNA everyone gets all worked up about... (The DNA could have came from the underwear manufacturer.)

But there is not a innocent explanation why John Ramsey's sweater fibers were found in the crotch area of his daughters underwear. Underwear that was straight out of the package and brand new.

Also, I fail to see the comparison between the Ramsey case and the Caylee Anthony case, other than a parent killed each child.

A Voice of Sanity said...

Levi said:The trunk also had chloroform. .

Nope. That's where you run into trouble. Chloroform is highly volatile and I have zero faith in tests done hours after the alleged contamination. Without a reliable analysis which complies with Daubert it's just another example of idiots making up crap.

Levi said...

A Voice of Sanity, the car rank of chloroform and she had searched for chloroform on google. I don't think we need a test to tell us that the trunk had chloroform in it.

A Voice of Sanity said...

Post a link to a valid report that "the car rank of chloroform" (whatever that means). As for internet searches, they are notoriously unreliable as evidence.

Levi said...

From an MSNBC article:

The detection of chloroform in the trunk of the car driven by Casey Anthony, along with evidence that she researched the chemical on the Internet, does not bode well for the mother of missing 3-year-old Caylee Anthony, in the opinion of investigative criminal profiler Pat Brown.

Internet searches are not unreliable as evidence.

Remember the case of Justin Barber he shot his wife on the beach, wounded himself to make it look like someone else did it.

He was convicted because before the shooting he was searching for "gun shot wounds" and ways to shoot yourself, without killing yourself on the internet.

A Voice of Sanity said...

As to chloroform, I'd need to see the real evidence, not a reporter's second hand version of Pat Brown's comments. Reporters are notoriously incompetent in their chosen field.

As to internet searches, in the Scott Peterson case selective analysis was used to ignore the real facts and create false impressions based on searches conducted by Scott and also by Laci.

Anonymous said...

Karen Your theory is very interesting. Stepping out of the box with the facts of DNA and the lives of maggots. This is like putting the puzzle together. Great work! Let's hope the PD department did not pass this valuable evidence over. Maybe Nancy Grace needs to hire you:)

Vicki Siedow said...

I agree with the last anonymous post. Excellent work, Karen. I hope this is considered in the case.

Maura said...

The presence of maggots is not speculative. The official records indicate that maggots were found in the trunk of the Pontiac.

From Orange County Detective Yuri Melich’s investigative report, page 17, set 1 of November 26 discovery documents (report date November 5, 2008):

“Once Investigator McBryde arrived with the trash bag, CSI Bloise emptied the bag’s contents to see what was inside. Although there were food items inside, as well as small flies and maggots, the smell from the trash was distinctively different from the smell coming from within the car. The trash did not smell like the inside of the car, but the odor of decomposition did carry over to the trash bag. Note that the trash bag contained a pizza box, but no pizza.”

From Jose Baez’s Motion for Sanctions, dated January 23, 2009 (Baez wanted the State sanctioned for failing to notify him that two forensic experts had been working for the prosecution and had been sent physical evidence for review).

“6. Thereafter, on January 21, 2009, defense received approximately 300 pages of new discovery – one day prior to its release to the news media. Upon reviewing this new discovery, especially those pages marked 3221, 3224 and 3225, defense learned for the first time that as early as September and October of 2008, Dr. Neal Haskell, a forensic entomologist, had not only been retained as an expert for the State in this matter as early as September 2008, but that evidence that had been collected from the trash and trash bag had been sent to him as early as September 2008. This evidence included, but was not limited to: “one small vial containing maggots in preservation solution” and “one small vial containing pupa.” These two items are listed under Thursday, August 28, 2008; however, it is stated that at approximately “16:48 hours on Tuesday, September 9, 2008, the items were shipped to Dr. Neal Haskell in Rensselaer, Indiana.

7. Additionally, at approximately 1635 hours on Tuesday, October 7, 2008, “one white trash bag with blue handle tie straps along with paper towels (used) with pupa attached to them” were also shipped to Dr. Neal Haskell for analysis and upon completion of his review, he was to ship them to Dr. Vass at Oak Ridge Lab in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.””

Maura said...

Simon Birch, the owner of the towing yard who was with George when the trunk was opened, said flies did leave the trunk when it was opened.

Since the Body Farm has estimated, from the chemical signature of the air in the trunk, the postmortem interval as 2.6 days (meaning the body had last been in the trunk no more than 2.6 days after death), and since law enforcement believes Caylee died on June 16, then the body had been removed from the trunk no later than June 19.

The car was abandoned on June 27, and as far as anyone knows, the trunk was not opened until July 15 (18 days after the car was abandoned), when Simon Birch said flies came out of the trunk. At that time, approximately 26 had passed since Caylee's body had been removed from the trunk. If the life cycle of a maggot is ten days, then the maggots in the trunk on July 15 must have been second- or third-generation maggots relative to the time when Caylee's body was last in the trunk (and assuming the initial flies had been feeding on Caylee's corpse).

So if there were living flies and living maggots in the Pontiac trunk on July 15, but Caylee's body had been removed approximately one month earlier around June 19, then the maggots and flies had not feeding on Caylee's corpse for weeks.

There is evidence in the official reports that food residue was found on items in the white trash bag, and Baez's motion noted bugs found on the items that were in the trash bag and also on the bag itself, so the maggots and flies were partly existing on food in the trunk and possibly (I'm assuming) on decomp fluids that were on the bag and that had saturated the trunk liner.

I don't personally have any hope that scientists will find any matter in the intestines of the maggots found in the trunk in July 2008 that will enable them to say conclusively that Caylee's dead body was in the trunk. My reason is that it's a given that the trunk liner was saturated with Caylee's antemortem DNA because Casey and Caylee had been using that car for 34 months. It's a certainty IMO that hundreds if not thousands of items (bibs, dirty clothes, dirty diapers, teething toys, other toys, bottles, sippy cups, etc.) covered with Caylee's saliva, skin cells, urine, etc., were tossed into the trunk over that time.

From what the forensics experts have said on the talk shows, there is no way a scientist could tell from the DNA alone whether the DNA source had been alive or dead. The scientists need a sample of the source material in order to say that the DNA had come from a living or dead child. If the maggots in the trunk on July 15 were feeding on the decomposition fluid that had saturated the trunk liner (Caylee’s body would have been removed from the trunk too many weeks earlier for maggots with a ten-day life cycle to have been feeding on the corpse itself), then the maggots would also have been eating organic matter from a living Caylee that had been transferred to the trunk liner between August 2005 and June 2008 and become mixed in with the decomposition fluids.