The duct tape was the main weapon for the State’s theory of murder. They alleged that Casey Anthony suffocated her child by forcibly wrapping duct tape around the child’s head covering both the nose and mouth.
Duct tape was located in a few places throughout this case. It was found on a gas can owned by Casey’s father (see photo) and on missing child posters created in 2008. However, this brand of duct tape was sold until 2006; therefore, one can infer that the Anthony’s had a relatively unused roll or multiple rolls of the rare-branded duct tape in the June/July 2008 time frame.
The brand is important because the same kind of rare duct tape was found with the remains of the child (see report) and about 6 feet away from the remains. Unfortunately and thankfully, the photos of the remains were released with significant blurring. Therefore, I will rely on the testimony by Investigator Hanson (video), Dr. Utz (video), and Dr. Shultz (video) for my analysis. They were very detailed in reconstructing the scene as they found it.
Duct tape was found “adhered” to the hair which matted itself at the base of the skull. This, of course, led to speculation that the child was murdered and the State alleged that duct tape was the murder weapon. But does the evidence really suggest that the duct tape was on the child’s airways before death? That is the major question. I believe the remains, specifically the mandible, shed light on the answer. The following description of events may be too gruesome for some to read.
(This analysis has been supplanted by newer analysis. Please read “Challenging the Duct Tape.”)
The key to understanding what happened to the remains is the mandible. The two doctors testified that it was very strange to find the mandible still attached to the skull in an above ground recovery. Indeed, the mandible was attached to the skull because of the hair mat and roots according to Dr. Shultz. Dr. Utz said once this was cut away in the M.E. office, the mandible fell off. What does this mean? The anthropologist said that because the mandible was in place, the duct tape was applied before decomposition. However, that was not a completely true statement.
If the child decomposed in the bag without duct tape on the face, the mandible should have fallen off because the muscle tissue attaching the mandible to the skull would cease to exist.
If the child decomposed in the bag with duct tape on the face, the mandible should still have fallen off because once the facial tissue around the duct tape decomposed, there would not have been any adhering point for the tape on the face. There still would have been tissue attached to the duct tape because that tissue would have decomposed slower due to an oxygen deprived environment (bacteria need oxygen, too, according to Dr. Spitz). The duct tape would not have adhered itself to the bone in order to keep the mandible in place. Rather, it would have fallen away along with and separately from the mandible. Therefore, the inference that the duct tape was there at any point because of the mandible was undeveloped. Furthermore, the fact that the mandible was attached indicated that the child did not fully decompose in the bag.
How the child actually decomposed was realized through the various bone findings. The vertebrae bones were found together and the trunk bones (pelvis, etc.) were found together, but they were found in separate areas from the skull and with some carnivore damage. Dr. Shultz testified that this implied that there was still tissue attaching these bones together when they were moved by animals (read report). This means that the child decomposed outside of the bag, not inside.
If we assume that the child was not buried, then how did the body get out of the bag? It seems shortly after the body was put there, animals caught hold of the scent, ripped through the bag, and pulled the body out. Dr. Utz indicated that some of the bones in the right foot were missing. In a manner that will not be discussed, some parts of the child were dragged away by animals and deposited in other areas. For the record, there was no evidence that the child was dismembered in any way upon death.
Remember, the mandible is the key. When the body was removed from the bag by animals, there had to be muscle tissue connecting the mandible to the skull because there was connective tissue elsewhere on the body. The head/skull laid upright and embedded in the soft swamp muck with the jaw resting on the ground (as it was found). Whenever this tissue decomposed, the mandible stayed in anatomical position because of the ingrown roots and hair mat (as per Dr. Shultz). The hair mat is also important as it being found around the skull implies that the skull was never moved after the scalp decomposed. Therefore, the skull decomposed where it was found partially buried in muck and leaf litter. This also suggests that there was not enough water to carry the hair away after the scalp decomposed.
What about the duct tape? Much argument was made to establish that the duct tape was of sufficient length to encircle the circumference of the child’s head, i.e. it was long enough to wrap around the head. However, does the way the remains were found suggest this was the case? The duct tape was not found encircling the head. The prior discussion of the mandible and hair suggests that the head/skull was left untouched to fully decompose after escaping the bag. Surely the hair would have draped over the encircling duct tape after the scalp decomposed. This was not the case. Rather, the hair was found matted at the base of the skull. Why would the duct tape unwrap itself before the scalp decomposed?
It seems the duct tape was not encircling the head. Perhaps it was just attached across the front of the face. But then the issue of duct tape length comes into play. Why would the duct tape be long enough to encircle the head, but only be attached to the front?
And what about the other piece of Henkel duct tape found 6.27 feet southwest from the skull? Where did that come from and why is it not attached to the skull? Did a “coyote” rip the tape off the face while being extra careful not to move the mandible? There were no bite marks on the skull. If we assume that duct tape could be removed from the skull, then we can assume that duct tape could be attached to the skull. Only the fibers of the duct tape were loosely attached to the hair mat according to the testimony. How it would be attached or removed in the enviroment is pure speculation. We know there was animal activity and people activity (due to trash) in the area. Also, a hurricane passed though Florida during the summer months of 2008.
I cannot conclusively say that the duct tape was not on the child’s head because I have not seen the pictures (except this crude doodle). However, if the State was pinning their hopes of a conviction on the interpretation of a picture, they were in trouble anyway. Nevertheless, the way the skull was found and the lengths of duct tape recovered contradict the State’s theory of how the duct tape was applied. The mandible is the key in determining that the skull decomposed in the position it was recovered and the hair mat found at the base of the skull implies it was never moved. And so why would the duct tape move? And why would duct tape be found 6 feet away? There were no indications that either the child’s hands or feet were bound in any manner, and the State did not entertain such a claim. Clearly, there are a few items which do not add up.
The State said the mandible was in place because of the duct tape, but scientifically that’s not completely true. The mandible would have fallen off regardless of the duct tape (for scientific analysis, read “Challenging the Duct Tape). The fact that the skull was found upright was much more important. Have you ever stepped in a swamp? The muck keeps things in place. Like an egg, gravity would cause a skull to lay on its side. The muck would cause it to stay upright. The muck would keep it together and in place. The skull was found in dried swamp muck, and humus, up to the eye sockets.
Alas, there may be another reason why the duct tape was at the crime scene. In trial, it was brought up that the Anthony’s buried their pets in garbage bags wrapped with two lengths of duct tape. It is a grisly thought to wrap a child as such, but it was brought up for a reason. The lengths of tape found seemed long enough to encircle the body. And there was no adhesive, so perhaps they could have un-adhered from the plastic bag because of the water and heat.
Jurors are the ones who analyze the evidence. How much of this should a juror have thought of? Should they have just bought the State’s theory? Should they have questioned the evidence?
To see how this tied into the rest of the evidence, read “The Analysis” of the State’s theory.