ORLANDO, Fla. — The mother of a missing 3-year-old girl was arrested Tuesday and charged with killing her daughter, even though the child's body has not been found during an exhaustive four-month search.
A grand jury indicted Casey Anthony on charges of first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse, aggravated manslaughter and four counts of lying to investigators about the disappearance of her daughter, Caylee, State Attorney Lawson Lamar said. The mother is being held without bond.
If convicted of first-degree murder, she could face the death penalty or life in prison. Prosecutors said no decision has been made on whether the death penalty will be sought.
Orange County Sheriff Kevin Beary said investigators' satisfaction that the indictment had been issued was tempered by what it concludes about the girl's fate.
"Speaking as a father, a day doesn't pass where I wish the evidence that we have gathered didn't add up to the painfully obvious," he said. "Sadly, I cannot change the facts surrounding the investigation."
He said investigators would continue doing "everything in our power to find little Caylee."
A few hours before the sealed indictment was issued Tuesday, the 22-year-old Anthony stood silently, sometimes crying, as her attorney told reporters she is innocent.
"Casey is going through a nightmare," Jose Baez said. "I sincerely believe that when we have finally spoken, everyone, and I mean everyone, will sit back and say, 'Now, I understand. That explains it.'"
After the indictment was announced, Baez' spokesman Todd Black said Lamar was rushing the case to the grand jury as a ploy to get re-elected.
Casey Anthony's father, George, testified Tuesday behind closed doors to the 19-member grand jury along with a detective, a cadaver-dog handler and an FBI agent.
For part of the grand jury hearing, the external audio system of the courtroom was left on, feeding into media trucks outside. Chief Judge Belvin Perry Jr. warned members of the media that they could be charged with criminal contempt if they made public what was said since grand jury proceedings are secret. Perry said he didn't know what might have been heard.
The child's grandmother first called authorities in July to say that she hadn't seen Caylee for a month and that her daughter's car smelled like death.
Casey Anthony told authorities she had left her daughter with a baby sitter in June and that the two were gone when she returned from work. She said she spent the next month trying to find her daughter and didn't call authorities because she was scared.
Investigators immediately started poking holes in her story. The apartment where Casey Anthony said she had left her daughter had been vacant for months, they said. They said she also lied when she told them she had been working at an area theme park as an event planner.
Investigators also accused her of stealing checks from a friend and cashing them. She was charged with felony child neglect and making false statements, along with forgery and theft. She was released on $500,000 bail and confined to her parents' home.