The State argued that the decomposing body of the child was in the trunk of the Pontiac Sunfire, used by Casey Anthony, for 1-3 days before she deposited it off Suburban Drive. They also insinuated, at one point, that the child may have been killed while inside the trunk.
Casey Anthony abandoned her car at an Orlando Amscot in late July because it had ran out of gas. George Anthony received a letter indicating that the car was in a tow yard. When he went to pick up the car, he noticed a smell similar to human decomposition emanating from the closed trunk. The tow yard manager also smelled it and recognized it as such. Upon opening the trunk, they found a maggot-filled bag of garbage which the tow yard manager threw out. The bag was later recovered.
When George brought the car home on July 15, 2008, Cindy Anthony smelled the putrid odor and sprayed Febreeze in the interior and trunk. He went to work and she tracked down Casey.
The next day officers arrived with cadaver dogs and inspected the car. The dogs gave signals indicative of finding decomposition in the trunk. CSI’s confiscated the car and noticed a stain in the trunk. No blood or DNA material was found in the trunk.
The FBI analyzed a 9″ hair microscopically similar to that of the child which exhibited characteristics of apparent decomposition.
Air samples were also collected from the car and analysis by Dr. Sigman and Dr. Arpad Vass was conducted. Dr. Vass concluded that a decompositional event occurred in the trunk (report) but Dr. Sigman could not (report).
Was there a decomposing body in the trunk of Casey’s car?
There was plenty of non-scientific evidence presented to suggest that there was a decomposing body in the trunk. One or two noses can be wrong, but there were many that said the car smelled of decomposition. Even the cadaver dogs agreed.
Dr. Vass’s report suggested that the chemicals found in the air sample were consistent with what is associated with decomposition. However, Dr. Furton indicated that there is no exclusive set of chemicals associated with decomposition and that experts are only in agreement over a few chemicals.
There was no physical, conclusive scientific evidence indicating that there was a decomposing body in the trunk. Dr. Huntington, the expert who conducted an experiment where dead pigs were left in a trunk, indicated that it did not look like decomposition was present in the trunk – according to a picture. He asserted that a decomposition stain is black and very recognizable and it carries a greasy texture. He also said that it would be next to impossible to clean such a stain. Dr. Huntington also stated that there was a lack of entomological evidence in the trunk usually associated with decomposition.
And then there were the people who went near the trunk and even rode in the car in late June who did not smell anything.
Despite the conflicting evidence, it is likely the child’s body was in the trunk for 1-2 days. If it were in two bags and a laundry bag then, perhaps, only a small amount of decompositional fluid leeched out. The lack of entomological evidence is concerning because insects would have found a way to get to the body (especially in the heat of Florida), but perhaps the trunk was cleaned. Rigorous cleaning of the trunk, perhaps the sort which would cause high amounts of chloroform to be found, could explain the lack of evidence. Also, the cleaning may have destroyed any DNA evidence that was in the supposed decompositional fluid. But the State stayed far away from any cleaning theories.
The trunk was very important in 2008 because it suggested that the child was already dead when Casey said she was missing. Ultimately, though, the importance of the trunk was overstated. A body in a trunk does not singularly help to determine the cause or manner of death.
To see how this tied into the rest of the evidence, read “The Analysis” of the State’s theory.