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Casey Anthony Murder Trial To Begin, Nearly Three Years After Caylee Anthony Disappeared

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Casey Anthony and her two-year-old daughter, Caylee. | Orlando Sentinel / AP

Opening statements in the State of Florida v. Casey Anthony, one of the Sunshine State's most sensational child murder cases, is scheduled to start Tuesday in Orlando. Three years in the making, the trial is expected to call more than 300 prosecution and defense witnesses and will last an estimated eight weeks.

It all started on July 15, 2008, with a phone call to 911 from Casey Anthony's mother, Cindy Anthony, to report the disappearance of two-year-old Caylee Anthony.

"I found out my granddaughter has been taken, she has been missing," a distraught Cindy Anthony told a 911 dispatcher. "My daughter [Casey] finally admitted that she's [Caylee's] been missing ... There is something wrong. I found my daughter's car today, [and] it smells like there's been a dead body in the damn car."

Caylee was last seen by family members on June 16, 2008. Questioned by police, Casey Anthony alleged her daughter had been abducted by her babysitter.

Cindy Anthony's 911 call launched a missing child investigation unmatched by any other in recent history by size and scope. In the weeks that followed, some 1,500 to 1,800 people -- volunteers from all over the United States -- scoured the area near Anthony's home.

As the search for Caylee grew in intensity, investigators examined every detail of her mother's story. They discovered that not only had Casey Anthony been lying about her place of employment, but she had also been deceitful about other details regarding her daughter's disappearance.

Citing her lack of cooperation, authorities arrested Anthony and charged her with child neglect, making false official statements and obstructing an investigation.

"Based on the repetitive lies that the defendant has told, we do not know with whom the child is or even if the child is alive," Corporal Yuri Melich wrote in the arrest affidavit.

After searching Anthony's car, Melich told Circuit Court Judge Stan Strickland that he was concerned by a "very bad smell" that he said was present in the car.

"I was a homicide detective for two years with the Orange County Sheriff's Office, and in my experience, the smell that I smelled in that car was the smell of decomposition," Melich said.

Investigators were unable to verify the existence of Anthony's alleged babysitter, even though she had Anthony said she had been babysitting the toddler for more than a year. Questioned by police, Cindy Anthony said she had never had any personal interactions with the sitter.

"Not a bit of useful information has been provided by Ms. Anthony as to the whereabouts of her daughter," Judge Strickland said during a July 22 bond hearing. "And I would add that the truth and Ms. Anthony are strangers."

On August 9, 2008, Caylee's third birthday came and went. The child's disappearance remained a mystery. The following week, Leonard Padilla, a celebrity bounty hunter from Sacramento, California, posted Anthony's $500,000 bond. Padilla told the media he was convinced that he could get Anthony to talk.

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Throughout the remainder of August 2008, investigators continued to gather evidence in the case. They enlisted the help of scientists at the University of Tennessee to examine air samples from the trunk of Anthony's car. The results allegedly indicated a decomposing human body had been kept there at some point.

Investigators also revealed the existence of DNA tests, which they claim showed a stain and hair samples inside the trunk that indicated Caylee was dead. From this point on, the Orange County Sheriff's Office began referring to Casey Anthony as a "suspect," rather than a "person of interest," in her daughter's disappearance.

Anthony found little reprieve before a Florida grand jury, which, in October of 2008, passed down an indictment against her on charges that she murdered her daughter.

Anthony was arraigned on charges of first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse, aggravated manslaughter and four counts of lying to investigators. After entering a not guilty plea to all counts, Anthony was ordered held without bond.

The search for Caylee came to a sober conclusion on December 11, 2008, when a utility worker found a child's skeletal remains in a wooded area not far from the Anthony family home.

"With regret, I am here to inform you that the skeletal remains found on December 11 are those of the missing toddler Caylee Anthony," Medical Examiner Dr. Jan Garavaglia said during a December 19, 2008 news conference.

The public memorial for Caylee was held at the First Baptist Church of Orlando on Feb. 10, 2009. Some 1,200 people attended the service.

For the next two years, legal jockeying in the case continued with motions examined, witnesses deposed and evidentiary hearings held. All in all, about $500,000 was spent preparing the case for trial.

Jury selection finally began about two weeks ago and ended on Friday with the seating of 12 jurors and five alternates. All of them were chosen from Pinellas County, which is located about two hours west of Orlando.

Starting at 9 a.m. on May 24, an overall jury pool of nine women and eight men will listen to the sum of the prosecution's efforts and the rebuttals of the defense, which is expected to point the finger at what Anthony's lawyers have reportedly perceived as inept police work and junk science.

On the eve of the trial, Anthony remains incarcerated in the Orange County Jail -- a limbo between freedom and prison. The outcome of case is yet to be determined. The showdown between both sides will inevitably come down to one key determination: the amount of culpability, if any, Anthony holds in her daughter's death.

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