Saturday, August 9, 2008

Caylee Anthony Police Expert Analysis on News Interviews

You would have to be under a rock not to notice the large amount of coverage garnered by the Caylee Anthony missing child case. As someone with law enforcement and media interviewing experience, it came as no surprise that I've ended up doing quite a few interviews on the topic. Even more than before, this investigation has lead to an incredible number of people coming up to me seeking answers to their many questions.

As I told WESH2 News (the NBC affiliate) anchor/reporter Gail Paschall-Brown, I fear that this case will have a sad ending. In my experience, the longer a child is missing, the more grim the prospects become.

This is a tragic case for a number of reasons. This missing two-year-old, now turned three-year-old, may have already been located if law enforcement officials were able to get straight answers from the get go. Sadly, As a former police chief who has investigated homicides and missing persons cases as a sworn law enforcer, it does not surprise me that people will use deceptions and omissions when dealing with police investigators seeking to ascertain the well-being of their own family.

I have told many folks that the Orange County Sheriff's Office investigators here in Orlando, FL, handling this case, Sgt. John Allen and Cpl. Yuri Mellich (who just finished two years in OCSO homicide), are not new kids on the block. They know how to investigate these types of cases. They are experienced, diligent and highly trained.

As for the smell of old pizza and the smell of death in the Pontiac. As anyone who has smelled a dead body left for some time, there is no confusing the two. As I pointed out in a Central Florida News 13 in-studio interview I did on 7/24/08 with Anchor Ybeth Bruzual, even Cindy Anthony, the grandmother, stated that in one of the 911 calls she made.

In a video package of a 7/23/08 interview I did with top rated ABC affiliate WFTV Channel 9 Eyewitness News, her statements concerning the pizza and my contradictory statements refuting the chance of confusing the two distinct smells were played together. Experienced law enforcers especially would not be confused by the pizza presence. As I told WFTV reporter Eric Rasmussen, that is not a chance that the two could be interchanged.

If you add on top of that the positive hit indication of two cadaver dog teams, the direction becomes clearer. As I explained on the WOFL Fox 35 Morning News in two live on-set interviews with host Heidi Hatch on 7/23/08 and in a video package with WVEN Univision 26 Noticias (the Spanish language news) News Anchor/Producer Jimena Cortes on 7/24/08, these dogs are highly trained and have a keen sense of smell. They would not be confused by pizza. You could put a ham sandwich next to them and they would not be distracted.

As for their sense of smell, they can detect the smell of decomposition deep underground even with a concrete slab being present. I don't think the human and canine experts could get this wrong.

It does appear that the family is now cooperating a little more with the investigators. They have discussed the issue of the Anthony family shed burglary and gas can theft with them. I figured that it was worth looking at and I told WFTV Channel 9 in another interview on 7/29/08 that investigators would have to look at the gas can shed burglary and theft situation.

That is good that family is now talking with the OCSO investigators. They are the ones with the interviewing expertise. They are the ones with the big picture of all of the tips that have to be logged in and prioritized. Seemingly insignificant information might be relevant when coupled with other information known by investigators.

It takes a lot of experience and training to conduct these investigations and no one should undertake such an endeavor on their own. To do so risks the integrity of the investigation.

I have also been asked why investigators withhold information. As I told reporters and news directors, who understand this as they have covered crime stories for years, information is always held back especially in high profile cases. They do this to be able to test the veracity and credibility of those who might confess or come forward with information. People have been known to do so with false information.

Information is also held back in order to have more material to offer the news media at a later date in an effort to revive the story. As time passes, sometimes people become more comfortable coming forward. Media coverage later helps the investigators to get more tips.

All of this is being combined with the evidence that they have collected and submitted for analysis on several different forays. Such evidence includes the stain, hair, and dirt from the Pontiac's trunk, the shovel borrowed from the neighbor, and the clothes retrieved and cleaned by Cindy Anthony from the Pontiac and later taken by investigators from the Anthony home. As I explained to Central Florida News 13 reporter Stephanie Coueignoux on 8/6/08, the evidence has to be looked at and analyzed. The forensic evidence, combined with their interviews and document collections will help them to piece together what amounts to a giant jigsaw puzzle.

This saga is sure to continue for a little longer. However, unlike the Trenton Duckett missing little boy case, I think this one will be solved. Let's hope so that the Anthony family, friends and the community can get some answers and some closure. Something that I know that countless loved ones of other missing children across Florida and the nation are hoping for in their respective cases.

Below is my Fox 35 Morning News two live in-studio segments from 7/23/08. Other TV news interview clips are on youtube at


Anonymous said...

Informative post, i wonder what your views are on the Madeleine McCann case. I am sure you are aware of the case and the indications given by the UK's prized blood and cadaver dogs, Keela and Eddie, who have a proven excellent track record.

Dr. Richard B. Weinblatt said...

Thanks. I am glad that you found this to be an informative post on the Caylee Anthony case.

As for the McCann case, I would have to reserve a thorough answer for a blog post in the future as it would be too long and detailed for this venue. I will say in general, as mentioned in this Anthony investigation blog post, that cadaver dogs who are handled well and trained properly are very accurate.

Thanks again for your comment.

-- Dr. Richard B. Weinblatt

Anonymous said...

Dr Weinblatt, do you have any future plans to post a blog on the McCann case in the near future? Given that the Portuguese case files on the investigation are now open and the case archieved pending further information.

I for one would welcome your view on this case and i am little doubt that my sentiments are echoed across the globe.

JaLiRa said...

Great post Dr. Weinblatt. I hope you are correct about this being solved.

I was watching Cindy Anthony on an interview with Fox's Van Susteren today and she said something about Casey Anthony getting "the mother of the year award" after we find out how she has been "protecting" Caylee throughout all of this? I certainly hope that is the case...however, it does not add up.

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