A decade after Caylee Anthony went missing, former Orange County CSI Robin Maynard-Harris recalls the events

By : Jeremy Williams
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So much has been written about Casey Anthony, her daughter Caylee’s disappearance and the subsequent discovery of Caylee’s body.

The media circus surrounded Central Florida in the years between Casey Anthony being arrested for the murder of her 2-year-old daughter in Oct. 2008 and her shocking acquittal for murder in July 2011. Many involved in the investigation and the case have spoken out to news network talk show hosts, written books and gone on press tours explaining what happened. One person who kept silent was Orange County Sheriff’s crime scene investigator, Robin Maynard-Harris.

Ten years later, Maynard-Harris is opening up about her experience. First speaking with famed-O.J. prosecutor Marcia Clark for her A&E series “Marcia Clark Investigates The First 48,” and then sitting down with Watermark.

Maynard-Harris is well known in Central Florida’s LGBTQ community for her activism as a lesbian. She started Libby’s Legacy Breast Cancer Foundation, named after her mother Libby who she lost to breast cancer in Feb. 2006, and is currently on the board of One Orlando Alliance. Before her venture into non-profit work, Maynard-Harris was a paramedic and a crime scene investigator for Orange County.

“When I was 8 years old my mother asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up and I said a detective,” Maynard-Harris recalls. “It’s been in my blood since the days of ‘Encyclopedia Brown,’ which many people won’t remember. It was a book series with titles like ‘Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Missing Pencil.’ I used to read all of them.”

Maynard-Harris started as an Orange County paramedic in 1995. She began studying forensic science and in 2002 beat out 85 applicants to be selected for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department Crime Scene Investigations division. She had been a CSI for six years when the car of Cindy Anthony, Casey’s mother and Caylee’s grandmother, was brought into one of the forensic bays in July 2008.

“I was sitting at my desk in the sheriff’s office and a car came into one of our forensic bays, which is about 50 feet from my desk. I said ‘oh great, who brought the decomp car in,’” Maynard-Harris says. “I didn’t even know anything about the Anthonys. At the time there was no death that we knew of. This was just a mother who called and said my daughter stole my car and it smells like there’s been a dead body in it. That’s all we knew. Then they tell us it was a missing child call. We all knew then that something was really wrong.”

At the time the vehicle was brought to the forensic bay, Caylee had been missing for more than a month. Six months after Caylee went missing her skeletal remains were found in some woods near the Anthony’s house.

“Our whole forensic team was out there processing the scene,” Maynard-Harris says. “I was in charge of sifting the remains, that was a big part of it. We had to try and find all of her. It’s very gruesome when you talk about it that way, but that’s your job.”

Maynard-Harris worked with the chief medical examiner for Orange and Osceola counties at the time, Dr. Jan Carla Garavaglia—better known as Dr. G—and the mobile unit trying to make sure they found all of Caylee.

“Everybody would bring me buckets and I would sift through everything looking for bones. I would take them to the morgue and we would try and put her back together and see what we were missing,” Maynard-Harris says. “It was a daunting task but I think the whole forensic unit did a fantastic job, as well as the forensic pathologist and Dr. G and everybody that worked on the case.”

Working a criminal investigation can be daunting, but an investigation with the amount of media attention that the Anthony case had would be overwhelming. Maynard-Harris recalls just putting that out of her mind and focusing on the job.

“When you’re in it you don’t realize how big it is because you’re just doing your job,” she says. “We put crime scene tape up and kept people out, the media just kept coming and coming and it grew, but we’re just there to do a job and bring justice for Caylee and bring dignity by recovering as much of her as we can. I think for us we worked it like we would any other crime scene. Part of being a good crime scene investigator is that you’re neutral and you’re letting the evidence speak for itself.”

Maynard-Harris has worked hundreds of cases, all of which did not receive the amount of media attention this one did, and she has her thoughts on why that is.

“I think this garnered so much attention because you have a white, middle class woman who looks like the girl next door,” Maynard-Harris says. “I worked a case where a mother killed her 3-year-old in a 10×10 room at the Budget Motel on OBT and it didn’t garner any attention. That mother got 35 years to life, but she was black and poor and the murder happened at a Budget Motel.

“Another thing that made this case so big is the fact that the child was missing for 30 days while the mother was out partying, and I think people saw that behavior and were shocked because everyone knew that that was not normal,” she says.

(Photos courtesy Robin Maynard-Harris.)

Casey Anthony went to trial for the murder of her daughter in May 2011. The trial lasted six weeks, two days of which Maynard-Harris testified for the prosecution. The most surprising thing Maynard-Harris remembers hearing from the trial was the defense’s argument that Casey’s father, George Anthony, had put Calyee’s body in the woods after she had drowned in the family swimming pool.

“The fact of the matter is people make murders look like accidents, they don’t make accidents look like murder,” Maynard-Harris says. “You wouldn’t take a drowned child out of the pool, not call 911 because you don’t know how long they’ve been in there, then put duct tape on their mouth and make it look like a murder. That makes no sense. That should be enough right there to get a conviction.”

Maynard-Harris was on the phone with Dr. G when the jury returned a verdict, of not guilty for Casey Anthony.

“Dr. G said ‘I feel like someone just kicked me in the gut.’ I said, ‘me too’ and I started to cry when I got off the phone,” Maynard-Harris recalls. “It is just so sad because it was not justice for Caylee. One of the reasons I agreed to do the Marcia Clark interview—I’d been asked to appear on Nancy Grace and all those shows and I turned them all down because I never wanted to sensationalize this child’s murder—was because she wanted to reexamine the evidence and I am all for that. Anything that can prove that the jury made a mistake, which they did. I don’t think Caylee got justice but I hold out hope, just like O.J. Simpson got his 13 years later, maybe Casey will get hers in the next couple of years. She’ll mess up and do something else and she’ll end up in prison where she belongs.”

Maynard-Harris, 10 years after having firsthand knowledge of the evidence, is absolutely convinced the jury got it wrong and believes Casey Anthony is guilty of murder.

“I have zero doubt. There’s not even a reasonable doubt. I can’t fathom why the jury came back with that verdict” she says. “Unfortunately, because of shows like ‘CSI,’ people want all this smoking gun forensic evidence and you sometimes don’t get it, especially not after six months when a child has been out in the woods. Roots going through the scene, there’s no skin left, no fingerprints left, but you can do character matching, which we did, with the duct tape. You can surmise that this smell came out of the truck at the same time that this child went missing. It’s called circumstantial evidence but it’s still called evidence.”

The investigation still impacts Maynard-Harris’s mental and emotional state today, especially when she thinks back on one particular moment that played repeatedly on the news.

“At the time I was getting asked a lot if working this case was hard, and not that is was harder, anytime there’s a crime against children or the elderly it’s was always hard for me,” Maynard-Harris says. “What was hard was I never saw my victims alive, I never saw these victims who I was helping to bring justice for living. No matter where you went they constantly showed that video of Caylee singing ‘You Are My Sunshine.’ I can’t even listen to that song to this day. Caylee would smile at the end of the video and I would look at it and would count her teeth and think, ‘we’re missing two more teeth. I have to get out there and we need to find them.’ It was hard on me that way to see her smiling and singing and living.”

Shortly after wrapping up the case in July 2009 and sending off the last of her evidence to the FBI, Maynard-Harris left the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. While it wasn’t solely the Caylee Anthony investigation that led to that decision, it was part of it.

“I decided I needed to fight for those who I could help and who needed help. I left to work Libby’s Legacy fulltime. Now I get to save lives with no chance of acquittal,” Maynard-Harris says.

One thing Maynard-Harris would like people to take away from this case is the importance of stepping up and doing your civic duty when asked to serve on a jury.

“The fact of the matter is everyone wants to blame the prosecution that they over-charged. They charged with lots of things that the jury could have come back with. They didn’t even convict her for child neglect and she didn’t know where her child was for 30 days,” Maynard-Harris says. “I hear so many people say ‘I was smart enough to get out of jury duty.’ It’s a civic duty for a reason. You want to have bright people on a jury that want to make sure justice is served. The same people who like to scream the jury got it wrong are a lot of the same people who try to get out of jury duty. When you’re called you should serve, and you should want to serve. It may be an inconvenience, but it’s even more of an inconvenience to have someone like Casey Anthony free.”

After everything Maynard-Harris went through with the investigation, if given the opportunity to sit and speak with Casey Anthony she would gladly take it.

“For one thing I believe she is a sociopath. I don’t believe there is any empathy so I find her to be interesting from a criminal justice standpoint. She’ll never admit. She’s the kind of person who will never admit what she’s done,” Maynard says. “I’m not entirely sure what all I would ask her, but I would end it with ‘I know that you killed Caylee, and I know she’s in a better place and I know that you won’t be.’”

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