Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel/MCT/Landov
May 24, 2011 06:20 PM

For nearly three years, the death of 2-year-old Caylee Anthony remained a mystery. But the first day of the murder trial of her mother, Casey, brought a series of surprises that left the Orlando courtroom in stunned silence.

The most shocking claims by lawyers during their opening statements focused on competing theories of how Caylee died – and who really knew what happened.

1. Caylee drowned in swimming pool, says defense
Casey had always maintained that Caylee was kidnapped by a babysitter named Zenaida Gonzalez. For the first time, defense attorney Jose Baez admitted the story was untrue.

“Caylee was never missing,” Baez told the jury. “On June 16, 2008, she drowned in the family swimming pool. It was a horrible tragedy. A common tragedy.”

2. Casey was sexually abused, says defense
Just minutes into his opening statement, Baez got the jury’s attention by alleging abuse when Casey was 8 years old.

“Her father came into her room and began to touch her inappropriately,” he said. Sitting in the courtroom, Casey’s father George Anthony sighed and closed his eyes.

It’s an allegation that George disputes: During his testimony, prosecutors asked whether he sexually abused his daughter. “No sir,” George said loudly. “I did not.”

3. The murder weapon: duct tape?
Prosecutor Linda Drane Burdick discussed the duct tape that was found over the nose and mouth of Caylee’s skull.

“The tape was put over the hair,” said Burdick. “She (Casey) never intended to take if off.”

Burdick repeatedly referred to the tape as the murder weapon. “At the end of this case, you will have no trouble concluding that Caylee Anthony was murdered by her mother.”

4. Meter reader hid Caylee’s body, defense claims
Roy Kronk, the meter reader who found Caylee’s body, has long maintained that he stumbled across the remains while relieving himself in the bushes.

Not so, claims Casey’s attorney. “He put her remains there,” said Baez. “This was his lottery ticket. There was a reward for Caylee’s return.”

How did Kronk get Caylee’s remains? Baez gave few answers. “We may never know.”

5. Caylee’s grandparents knew she was dead all along, defense says
Baez told the fascinated jury that George Anthony was home when Caylee died and that he angrily confronted Casey about her negligence.

“He got in her face,” Baez told jurors. “He was screaming.”

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