Casey Anthony Trial Day 11: Odor linked to decomposing human body, “rotten potatoes”

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Dr. Arpad Vass, a researcher at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, took the witness stand on Monday in Casey Anthony’s Trial, saying that the air sample in the trunk of Casey’s car was consistent with decomposition of human body.

However, defense attorney Jose Baez described him as a non-mainstream researcher and said his ideas were without any support in his field.
Vass testified that the tested air sample in the trunk of Casey’s car was consistent with human decomposition. I can find no other plausible explanation other than that to explain all the results we found, said Vass.

When Vass used a machine called a gas chromatograph, which can identify human decomposition, he said it was shocking that strong of an odor could be in that little can.

Vass, who has studied decomposing bodies for 20 years, said the odor (chloroform) from the trunk of Casey’s car was 10,000 times stronger than what he had expected to find related to human decomposition.

Vass heads a research team at a research facility called The Body Farm. He said they allow donated human body to decompose for research purposes.

We were shocked. We've never seen chloroform in those levels before, at least I haven't, Vass said. The chloroform was shockingly high, unusually high.

When prosecutor Jeff Ashton asked Vass about the differences between the smell of human decomposition and animal decomposition, Vass said, Animals tend to have a more muskier scent. Domesticated animals like a pig have a much sweeter scent than humans.

However, under cross examination, Baez said Vass’ testimony can’t count as this science was “in its infancy stages”.

Baez also found out that in an article, Vass had said that he had failed to locate bodies on a ranch once used by the Manson family.

Casey’s attorney also cited a Knoxville newspaper published in December 2008, where Vass acknowledged that he couldn’t distinguish between the smell of human decomposition and a rotten potato, saying the two are “amazingly similar”.

 Vass said that though he may have said that, yet, he has also studied the chemical composition of a potato and has found it to be completely different.

The trial will resume at 9 am on Tuesday.

The trial is expected to take 6-8 weeks before a verdict is reached.

The prosecutors say Casey chloroformed Caylee and then put duct tape over her nose and mouth, suffocating the girl.

Casey's lawyers claim Caylee was not murdered. They say the toddler accidentally drowned in the family swimming pool and George, Casey's father, helped her keep the death a secret. George denied the claim on Thursday.

Caylee was last seen alive on June 16 and it was only on July 16 that she was reported missing to the police. Cindy had alerted the police by calling a 911 dispatcher and saying that she had smelled a dead body in the trunk of Casey's car that was spotted in an impound lot. The car was later towed by authorities for forensic analysis.

Initially, Casey told the police that a babysitter had abducted Caylee. Investigations showed Casey was lying as the babysitter Zanny was fictitious. Five months later, in December 2008, Caylee's decomposed skeletal remains were found in a wooded area near Casey's house by a meter reader who was relieving himself.

Casey has been charged with seven counts, including first degree murder, aggravated child abuse and misleading the police in the death of Caylee. If she is convicted of first degree, she could be sentenced to death by the seven-woman, five-man jury.

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