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Cheryl Paradis, Psy.D.

Cheryl Paradis Psy.D.

Casey Anthony: Tot Mom on Trial

Caylee Anthony's grandmother takes the stand

Casey Anthony's trial began a few days ago. She is accused of killing her two-year old daughter Caylee in 2008. Ms. Anthony, who has been referred to in the press as the "Tot Mom," is charged with first-degree murder and faces the death penalty.

Ms. Anthony's mother Cynthia, "Cindy" took the witness stand today. I was amazed by her composure as she detailed the final days she spent with her granddaughter. She cried softly as she described taking Caylee swimming in their pool. The prosecutor, Linda Burdick, questioned her in detail about this swim. Her love for the little girl was obvious as she recalled how she dressed her in her swimsuit and carefully climbed behind her up the pool ladder. The grandmother testified how Caylee sat patiently on the edge, on a small platform, until she could get into the pool. Then Caylee jumped into her arms.

Cindy Anthony also told the jury about the last time she took Caylee to visit her great grandfather in hospice. She described filming them together and realizing that, because her father was so ill, this might be their last visit. I'm sure I was not the only one who was struck with how the events then unfolded.

Caylee lived with her grandparents until she disappeared on June 15th or 16th. Cindy Anthony described her close relationship with her granddaughter. What did she think when the toddler disappeared? Did she suspect her own daughter?

Caylee was not officially declared missing for an entire month. During those weeks Cindy Anthony frequently contacted her daughter to ask about the toddler. It has been reported that Casey Anthony gave different excuses. It has been reported that at times she claimed Caylee was with a nanny. On July 15th, 2008 Cindy Anthony contacted the authorities to report her granddaughter's disappearance.

The news of Caylee's disappearance transfixed the country. For many months no one knew for certain what had happened to her. I'm sure I was not the only one who hoped she had been kidnapped and would soon be found alive. I believe I was not the only one who suspected she was dead. I probably was not the only one who found her mother's behavior very suspicious.

What was Casey Anthony doing during that month? One of the first witnesses to testify at the trial was her ex-boyfriend Ricardo Morales. He testified that Ms. Anthony never mentioned her daughter's disappearance. He and others have reported that they did not observe any changes in Ms. Anthony's behavior or mood. Throughout that month she seemed untroubled.

The remains of Caylee's body were found five months later in a wooded area near her home. Three strips of duct tape were found. The tape was on the mouth area of her skull.

I can't imagine how devastating it must have been for Cindy Anthony to testify today. She was called to the witness stand by the prosecution. She must have realized how her testimony might help convict her daughter. The prosecutor brought out one especially important detail. Ms. Anthony told the jurors how the pool ladder was routinely left on the ground and not attached to the pool. This was done for Caylee's safety.

Casey Anthony has pled not guilty. Defense attorney Jose Baez, told jurors, in his opening remarks, that Caylee death was not a homicide. He said she drowned in the family's pool. He provided an explanation for his client's puzzling behavior after her daughter's accidental death. He said she hid the death because she was afraid of being arrested. He said her behavior was influenced by the fact that she had been sexually abused by her father and sexually molested by her brother.

As I watched Cindy Anthony testify today, I was struck with how this must all seem to her like a nightmare. First she lost her granddaughter. Then her daughter was arrested for murder. At one point her husband went missing, sending suicidal messages to his family. Then he was admitted to hospital for psychiatric evaluation.

Now, her husband and son are accused of sexually molesting her daughter. And this is only the first week of trial.


About the Author

Cheryl Paradis, Psy.D.

Cheryl Paradis, Psy.D., is an associate professor of psychology at Marymount Manhattan College.