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Casey Anthony Trial | Day 12 – Daily Updates (Thoughts & Observations)

By Martie Hevia | Blue Beach Song™

[Updated: June 16, 2011 | 10:07 a.m. PT]

| | Introduction | | Summaries | | Daily Updates | | Thoughts | | Resources | |

Day 12 – June 7, 2011 – Tuesday

The Prosecution’s List of Witnesses for June 7, 2011

  • First Prosecution Witness: Gerardo Bloise – Lead Crime Scene Investigator for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.
  • Second Prosecution Witness: Dr. Arpad Vass – Forensic Anthropologist and Research Scientist at Oakridge National Laboratory.
  • Third Prosecution Witness: Dr. Michael Rickenbach – Forensic Chemist Examiner at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
  • Fourth Prosecution Witness: Jason R. Forgui – Deputy with Canine Unit at the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.

The Prosecution’s Witnesses:
Talking Trash, Science and Cadaver Dogs

The Prosecution re-called their lead Crime Scene Investigator, Gerardo Bloise, who talked about the trash bag found in Casey Anthony’s car, itemizing the contents of the bag. Of significance in the things he listed, is what was not listed: food items or any kind of organic material that could decompose and create the horrific smell that permeated the car.

Dr. Arpad Vass was called back to identify a can of evidence that needed to be admitted into evidence, however, the Defense got him to say in response to a question, “No, we are not a Forensics Lab, so we do not handle evidence all that frequently.”

The F.B.I. Forensic Chemist Examiner, Dr. Rickenbach, tested evidence from the trunk of the car and various samples that had residues of chloroform or had substances that were consistent with chloroform. In cross-examination, the Defense was able to get the F.B.I. examiner to acknowledge that the amount of chloroform found in the evidence sample was quite small and consistent with common household cleaning products.

The day ended with compelling testimony from Deputy Forgui and his work with cadaver dogs. He described the intensive training and testing, and the real-world successes he and his dogs have had in locating human decomposition and ignoring animal decomposition.

Of note, was when Deputy Forgui and his dog, Gariss, were called to the Anthony’s backyard because the detectives had noticed what appeared to be disturbed earth indicative of a shallow grave. Gariss was taken off leash in the yard and he did a thorough search several times through. He never once indicated anything near the pool, nor did he signal at the shallow grave, but he did signal a decomposing human on the grassy area in front of Caylee’s playhouse, next to her sandbox. A second cadaver dog was called in from another county, who also signaled near the same area where Gariss had earlier signaled a find.

The conclusion was that Caylee’s dead body had been placed on the grass in front of her playhouse and that, for whatever reason, the shallow grave was not used.

Gerardo Bloise

CSI Bloise was brought back to talk about the bag of trash Awilda McBride gave him on July 16, 2008. He photographed the item as it was received and as it was opened. The prosecutor introduced photos of the trash bag. CSI Bloise testified that the exterior of the bag was a little wet, and the handles were not tied securely.

After photographing the exterior of the bag, Bloise proceeded to inspect the interior of the trash bag, making sure to photograph the interior contents, as well. He pulled out the items from the bag, he did not cut the bag. All of the items, including the bag itself were placed in the dry room to dry out. [This becomes a point of contention for the Defense later on.]

The prosecutor asked CSI Bloise if the items had any special odor, but he said that they smelled like normal trash, not like the car.

After spending two days in the dry room, Bloise placed the items in a box and then placed the box in the evidence locker. He took special interest in the paper towels (sometimes referred to as napkins) found in the trash. He photographed them and placed them in a plastic bag, separate from the rest of the trash.

The Prosecution reviewed the photos CSI Bloise took of the trash bag’s contents: a can of Copenhagen chewing tobacco; an empty bottle of Arm & Hammer laundry detergent; aluminum foil; part of a plastic hanger; a big pile of paper type products; empty soda cans for Sprite, Cherry Cola, Dr. Pepper, Pepsi, Mountain Dew; empty Milwaukee beer can; 1 hair pin; 3 plastic tie wraps; empty Oscar Mayer plastic container; several dryer sheets; empty containers of Crystal Light; a cut up pizza box; receipt from Fusion Ultra Lounge; document from Full Sail University; empty plastic bottle of Coke; Crystal Light plastic bottle with brown liquid; a cherry Coke carton; a cardboard Velveeta container; among other things.

[It is worth noting that there was no organic material found in the trash bag – nothing that could decompose, nothing to approximate the horrific smell from the car.]

Jose Baez cross-examined Investigator Bloise, reviewing photos of the trash before and after they were dried. Mr. Baez asked, “It was not your intention to destroy evidence, but that’s what you did.”

“Objection” rang out from the Prosecution.

Mr. Baez tried again, “You had no idea the items would be altered.” Bloise explained that it is their protocol to dry evidence in the dry room as a way of preserving the evidence. Mr. Baez asked him if he knows that items that may contain DNA evidence should not be dried. Bloise replied that he did not think the paper towels had any DNA value because he did not see blood. Jose Baez pointed out that DNA testing can be done on saliva and semen. And, in case the jury had not heard him say it, Mr. Baez asked again, “It was not your intention to destroy or alter the evidence?”

“Objection!” “Sustained.”

Dr. Arpad Vass

Dr. Vass showed up for a cup of coffee, that is to say, a very short stay. The prosecution needed him to identify a can of evidence to submit it into evidence. But it gave the Defense the opportunity to ask, “Dr. Vass you testified to a piece of evidence you did not examine? You are not familiar with handling evidence.” “No,” Dr. Vass replied, “we are not a Forensics lab, so we do not handle evidence all that frequently.” [And the Defense earned a couple of Brownie points.]

Dr. Michael Rickenbach

Dr. Michael Rickenbach, a forensic chemist examiner with the F.B.I. since 1999, holds a Bachelor’s, Master’s, and PhD in forensic chemistry. In August 2008, he received items for examination and was asked specifically to look for evidence of chloroform.

Several pieces of fabric from the spare tire cover, one contained in an evidence can and the rest in a cardboard box, were sent for a headspace-gas chromatography analysis, which resulted in a finding of chloroform residue on the items. The pieces of fabric from the left and right side of the trunk liner were given the same exam and were found to be consistent with chloroform.

The prosecutor asked the forensic chemist what the difference was between saying a ‘residue of chloroform’ and ‘consistent with chloroform’ and he explained that a residue of something is when two techniques corroborate each other and consistent with is when only one detects the substance. The two tests are similar, but one uses a different instrument.

The Defense, during cross-examination, was able to get Dr. Rickenbach to admit that he found very small amounts of chloroform and that chloroform can be found in some cleaning products. He was asked and he confirmed that the levels of chloroform found in the samples he tested were consistent with common household cleaning products. [A huge point for the Defense.]

Dr. Rickenbach was asked and he explained to the defense attorney that his instruments are designed for qualitative, not quantitative analysis, in other words, detecting a chemical is present, but not how much of it. The Doctor explained that you cannot tell an exact quantity, but you can tell in relation to the other chemicals found whether there is more or less of some chemical.

The Defense scored some points when the Doctor explained that he analyzed the samples twice: once with an internal standard and once without. Dr. Rickenbach, determined that the chloroform was a small amount as a result of running a negative and positive control. He runs a negative and positive control to make sure the chemical is not in the instrument and then to make sure that it can detect it. Based on the known amount of his positive control, he could tell that the evidence sample was significantly less. The Defense asked, “Not shockingly high levels of chloroform, was it? Dr. Rickenbach replied, “No, it was not.”

The Prosecution under re-direct recovered some ground by asking Dr. Rickenbach about the volatility, the ability to evaporate, of chloroform, and the manner in which the samples were packaged. The forensic examiner stated that the way the samples were packaged would have allowed for the chloroform to evaporate and escape, thereby resulting in lower amounts. Dr. Rickenbach added that he was surprised he was able to detect any chloroform at all because it is very volatile, “It does not stick around for very long. It should have volatilized and it should not have been detected at all.”

Dr. Richenbach stated that the sample from the evidence can showed a quantity of 5% of his positive control, which was 100 parts per million. An unsealed sample in a cardboard box showed 0.1% of the control sample. A sealed container sample in a cardboard box showed 1% of the control sample. And so forth. He noted that he did not cut out the same exact amount from each of the samples and that will affect the amount of chloroform detected.

Deputy Jason R. Forgui

Deputy Jason Forgui has been employed by the Orange County Sheriff’s Office since 1994. In 2001, Forgui became a canine handler. He was asked about his training for this position, and he explained that the dogs and the handler do not train independent of each other, but always together.

His first dog, Garrett, was a Bloodhound tracker dog. The two of them attended a five-week-long school, three weeks in the classroom and two weeks in the field. They were trained on scent discrimination, man tracking, and man trailing, after which they were given a proficiency test. Additionally, the handler and the canine engage in follow-up monthly training and quarterly testing by evaluators who make sure the dog is working correctly. After 11 months of working with Garrett, the dog had to be put down.

His second dog after Garret, Ike, was also a Bloodhound tracker dog, and he attended similar ongoing training in scent discrimination, man tracking, and man trailing. In 2004 he handed him to another handler.

While Deputy Forgui worked with Ike, he also began working with his third dog, Bones, in 2002. Bones is a German Shepherd single-purpose cadaver dog. A single-purpose dog is trained to do just one job, and in Bones’ case, his single purpose was to detect human decomposition. Deputy Forgui and Bones received 160 hours of specialized training, which included intensive proficiency testing.

The training of a single-purpose cadaver dog includes various stages: introduction to odor; imprinting of odor; training the dog to take you to the source of the odor; and training the dog to give you a specific signal for the final alert. The final alert is the signal the dog will give his handler when he finds the source of the odor. Bones’ final alert signal was to sit. The handler, through working with his dog, will recognize the dog’s body language and behavior change when he is tracking an odor.

During the imprinting stage certain ‘aids’ are used and hidden. The aids include rags soaked in the chest cavity of a decomposing body with fluids; adipocere; mummified human muscle; human bones; cremated remains; burned bones; placenta; human blood; human tissue; grave dirt; dirt from where a cadaver was found, and then removed; and pseudo-sang man-made odor tablets used in water to locate drowning victims. The man-made odor tablets are used in water so as to not contaminate lakes, rivers, oceans and other bodies of water where they might train.

At some point it was determined that the county needed a full-purpose dog, not a single-purpose dog. They tried to train Bones to be a full-service dog, but he could not be re-trained to full-service, so he was given to the Osceola police department, in a neighboring county, because they were looking for a single-purpose cadaver dog.

Before transferring Bones to another county, Deputy Forgui and Bones covered multiple counties, because he was the only sworn dog available.

After Bones, the Deputy was assigned his fourth canine, Garris, a German Shepherd, who is trained to be a full-service dog. Garris was brought in from Germany when he was 20 months old and he will be turning nine this October, so they have been working together for a little over seven years.

Garris and Deputy Forgui attended a full-service training, 400-hour school, which included basic training, scent discrimination, man tracking, and man trailing. After his training, both Garris and the Deputy as a team are evaluated by two outside evaluators and if they pass they are then FDLE (Florida Department of Law Enforcement) certified.

In addition to that 400-hour training, they received the 160-hour training required to work as a cadaver dog, previously described. Garris’s final trained alert was to lay down when he found the source of the human decomposition odor. The dogs are also trained away from other odors, like dumpsters, decomposing animals, food, animal urine or feces, and other scents they may encounter on a real-world call.

As part of the training the dogs are exposed to different environments, in buildings, landfills, open fields, woods, rubble, concrete, drainage pipes, in and under cars, near bodies of water, on bodies of water, and numerous other environments.

The dogs and the handlers are always tested as a team, and they are always blind-tested, meaning that they never know where the training aids are hidden. The handlers are taught to walk past training aids when they are training their dog, so as not to cue him as to where the training aid might be.

After all the training the Orange County Sheriff’s department puts their dogs and handlers through, there are additional schools the dogs and the handlers attend, which are not affiliated with the Sheriff’s department.

The prosecutor asked Deputy Forgui and he confirmed that he is responsible for maintaining all of Gariss’s business records, including all of his certificates for the various training programs they have completed and successfully passed; as well as his training logs and real-world case logs.

They review and show the jury the logs that track Gariss’s successes and failures, his total false alerts, total misses, total finds. The logs also note weather information, including wind direction and speed, as well as temperature.

The Prosecution also shows the jury numerous photos of the training. The Deputy points out that Gariss will lay down when he finds the source of the odor, as the signal he was taught to use for his final alert, but Gariss, on his own, added looking at the source and then making eye contact with his handler. His reward is never food, simply praise and a ball.

The Prosecution asked about his evaluations and the Deputy stated that between 2005-2010, Gariss was evaluated 21 times and he had no misses, and no false alerts. [A false alert is when the dog signals for human decomposition, but there isn’t any.]

The prosecutor asked and the Deputy confirmed that Gariss had been trained to alert on a cadaver that had been buried, but was later removed. Forgui noted that they try to use real-world cases, whenever possible, to do training with the cadaver dogs.

Deputy Forgui noted that typically there is no alert at all when they go out on a call. In 2005, they had no real-world calls. In 2006, they received 6 real-world calls, and had 1 alert, 1 find, and no false alerts. In 2007, they went out on 9 real-world searches and had no alerts. In 2008, they went out on 71 cadaver searches and had 3 alerts and 1 find. He explained that in 2008 they had such a large increase in the number of calls due to the tips coming in for the Caylee Anthony case, which included calls for disturbed earth, recent small shallow graves, but Gariss did not alert, the Detectives dug and found animal remains. In 2009, he went out on 12 searches, and he had 1 alert, 1 find – a drown victim who fell out of a canoe. In 2010, they went out on 11 searches, but had no alerts. Gariss retired on September 24, 2010.

In 2006, the mentioned 1 alert and 1 find was for a female reported to have been shot and dumped in the woods by a pond. A team walked and searched repeatedly, along with a search helicopter who made several rounds but nothing was found. Deputy Forgui and Gariss went out on the call at night, deep into the thick woods and high vegetation. The helicopter warned Deputy Forgui that a large alligator was spotted in the area, and the Deputy asked them to stay while he searched to warn him if the alligator made a move on him and his dog.

The Deputy noted that along with the thick vegetation, there was trash all over the place, and the ground sloped down to a sinkhole, and he was concerned not only because of the alligator, but because he did not know where the edge of the pond began. The one thing in their favor, however, were the perfect conditions and the wind.

The helicopter automatically captured, through infrared cameras, the amazing alert and find by Gariss of a body floating face down in the pond. The amazing thing is that it was pitch black, the high grass and vegetation kept Gariss and the Deputy from visually seeing the pond, much less what was floating on it. The dramatic video, after Defense objections, was shown to the jury.

The Deputy noted that before Bones transferred to Osceola county, he worked with Bones on 4 real finds in 11 months. The first one was a call from a man whose dog found a human mandible. The man’s dog played in a rural area in the open woods. Bones was able to find the lower torso, which had been pulled apart by animals in the woods. The second and third finds for Bones included an alert to a garage floor, where they found a man buried under it. And then two blocks away, Bones found another body buried under a pool area. Bones’s fourth find was to locate a rag that was used by a defendant to wipe blood and which was discarded.

[The Prosecution went to great lengths to prove the accuracy and training of the cadaver dogs used in the Caylee Anthony case, because the Defense at one point had claimed that the dogs had given false alerts in the backyard of the Anthony home.]

Gariss and Bones Alert at Anthony Backyard
Deputy Forgui was called to assist in the disappearance of Caylee Marie Anthony on July 17, 2008. First the detectives wanted him to look at a vehicle, the Sunfire Pontiac that belonged to Casey Anthony. Deputy Forgui asked the crime scene investigators to bring the car out of the Forensics Garage and leave it on the parking lot.

Deputry Forgui noted that Gariss was working the back of the vehicle. The deputy asked the CSI to open the driver’s door and Gariss jumped into the car and tried to get to the back seat. Coming back out, the Deputy asked the Investigator to open the trunk and Gariss jumped up with his front paws to the trunk. The Deputy noted that Gariss did another walk around, and when he got to the back seat passenger area, Gariss gave his final trained alert. [It is curious that Gariss’s final trained alert was not in the trunk, but the back passenger seat where Caylee’s car seat was. Was Caylee’s dead body at one point in the back passenger seat?.]

After that, the detectives asked Deputy Forgui to go with Gariss to the Anthony residence and do a sweep in the back yard. They had found an indentation in the ground dirt, indicative of a shallow grave. When Deputy Forgui arrived with Gariss, he took the dog off leash because the yard was fenced in. Gariss went past the sheds, past the above ground pool, and he did not indicate on the shallow grave. Gariss’s final trained alert as to the source of the odor was on the grass, in front of Caylee’s playhouse and sandbox.

Deputy Forgui suggested that another cadaver dog come, and he called for Bones to come. Forgui did not tell Bones’s new handler where Gariss had hit, he just asked her to have Bones search the backyard.

[A couple of points, the shallow grave the detectives were concerned about received no hits, no indications, and no final alerts from Gariss, but on the grass surface, near the sandbox and playhouse Gariss gave a final alert. Is it possible that Casey put Caylee on the grass while she tried to dig a shallow grave? Was it on the day she borrowed the shovel from her neighbor to dig bamboo shoots? Was it too difficult to dig a deep enough grave, so she put Caylee back in the car and returned the shovel? The neighbor testified to seeing her back her car into the garage, something he had never seen her do before. Another point is that the cadaver dog did not indicate or final alert anywhere near the pool, where the Defense claims Caylee drowned.]

The Defense’s cross-examination involved a myriad of questions:

    “Can the dog track a residual odor older than 30 days?” – “Yes.”
    “Experts suggest that you videotape your searches, why didn’t you?” – “It is not our protocol.”
    “If you train your dog, then it is not a blind search, is it?” – “Not when I lay out the targets, but the real-world finds are blind to everyone.”
    “How come your dog did not alert in the woods where we knew Caylee was found?” – “Because I was pulling him away from where Caylee was found. I needed him to search for any other small bones, not to alert on where we already knew the little girl was found. Therefore, he did not give his final trained alert because I did not let him.”

On re-direct the prosecutor asked Deputy Forgui how many searches he had conducted and how many were videotaped. He responded that they had conducted over 3,000 searches, but very few were ever videotaped, unless the search helicopter was present and then it was videotaped by default.

The prosecutor then followed up on the second day Deputy Forgui and Gariss were called back to the Anthony backyard and asked him to explain why he thought Gariss did not alert on the second day. Deputy Forgui thought that because the CSI and detectives had dug up the surface, the grass area where Garris had given his final alert, the scent had been removed. It indicated to him that a body was not buried there, it had been placed on the grass, on the surface, and it was not there long enough for body fluids to seep into the ground.

On re-cross, Deputy Forgui was aksed if he knew with certainty whether Caylee’s dead body was in the backyard, or whehter it was a false alert; or if it was the surface digging the CSI team conducted. And the Deputy replied that he could not say with certainty which of those three it might be. But he added, “Every alert I have had in real-world cases, I have had a find.” He also added, in reference to the car, that the odor he smelled in the car, he “smelled as clear as day” and he has “extensive experience smelling that smell.”

Final Thoughts

My final thought is about the cadaver dogs. I was thoroughly impressed with their training and the success records of the specific dogs used in this case, Gariss and Bones. The extensive testimony that Deputy Forgui gave about real-world cases, left me with no doubt that those dogs clearly smelled a decomposing human body in the trunk and back passenger seat of Casey Anthony’s car and in the Anthony’s backyard on the grassy area in front of Caylee’s playhouse.

The dogs did not alert around the pool, which one would have expected given their training even in drownings, if the Defense’s theory about an accidental drowning were true.

What seems to fit like pieces of a puzzle, is Casey coming home, when her parents were at work, with Caylee’s dead body in the trunk. The next door neighbor observing Casey back her car into the garage – trunk hidden from street view. Perhaps, Casey brings her daughter to the backyard and puts her on the grass, in front of the Playhouse, where the dogs alerted. After Casey realizes that the shed with the shovels is locked, she borrows a shovel from her neighbor “to dig up bamboo shoots.”

The detectives observed a month later disturbed earth indicative of a shallow grave; so, perhaps Casey tries to dig a grave and realizes it would be noticed, or it would be difficult to dig it deep enough, or her family’s dogs themselves might end up digging it up. For whatever reason, she changes her mind about digging a grave in the backyard. She returns Caylee to the trunk; returns the shovel to her neighbor; and leaves.

After all, why would you go to your parent’s home, when you are no longer living there, to dig up bamboo shoots and leave?

“Curioser and curioser!” to quote Alice in Wonderland.

What are your thoughts?

Casey Anthony Trial | Day 13 – Daily Updates (Thoughts & Observations) – Coming Soon

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