Anthony Family Emotional At Caylee Memorial

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Last Updated: Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Family, friends and the Central Florida community gathered Tuesday to say goodbye to Caylee Marie Anthony at a public memorial.

Hundreds of mourners lined up outside First Baptist Orlando hours before the service began at 10 a.m. with a piano medley of some of Caylee's favorite songs.

The Anthony family said it wanted to give people who have become connected to this case a chance to say goodbye.

The event was filled with emotional words, both from religious leaders and from members of Caylee's own family.

"Caylee's home," said the Rev. David Uth, senior pastor of First Baptist Orlando. "I believe today, she's there -- and oh, my goodness, if she could step into this room, in a childlike way she would tell us, or she would show us, or she would jump up and down and show us the incredible place heaven is."

Lee Anthony, Caylee's uncle, could not even bring himself to say Caylee's name, instead calling her by her initials.

"C.M.A., each day you continue to teach me about life, about the way it should be lived," Lee Anthony said. "Each day, you give me the ability to be strong, or to be weak. It's been so long since I've been able to see you, hug you or tell you how much you mean to me. C.M.A., I miss you."

Caylee's grandfather, George Anthony, remembered the times his granddaughter made him laugh, and even sang the first few words of the theme song of "Spongebob Squarepants," which she watched with him.

"Faith is why I stand before you today with a smile," said Cindy Anthony, Caylee's grandmother. "I would never have been able to endure the pain and suffering for the last seven months without my faith."

The Anthonys, though tearful, remained calm, holding hands throughout the ceremony, and occasionally leaning on each other.

They also smiled at times when the pastor spoke.

George and Cindy Anthony also gave support to their daughter, Casey Anthony, who is charged with the toddler's murder.

"I miss my daughter, Casey," George Anthony said while speaking at the memorial. "Do not form any judgments, because I tell you: You don't want to be in our shoes. Casey deserves prayer, understanding, and letters. Take the time to write a letter to her."

"Mostly, the things I miss is watching the love [Caylee] shared with her mother," Cindy Anthony said. "It breaks my heart today that Casey's not with us to honor her child, who she loved very much. Casey, I hope you're able to hear me today. I love you, and wish I could comfort you right now."

Cindy went on to say that Caylee was the greatest gift she has ever received.

Rev. Uth told News 13 there were probably about 1,000 people seated for the service in the church's sanctuary, which can hold a total of 5,000.

Guests had to go though a metal detector as they entered the church. Cell phones, cameras, and bags were not permitted inside at the service.

Rev. Uth's opening prayer was followed by a performance of the song, "No More Night," by Kyle Thomas, whom Rev. Uth told the congregation used to stare at the cross on top of the church's building from inside his jail cell before he was later released from prison.

Mourners Come From Miles Around

Some people came from as far as New York and California to arrive in Central Florida for the event, saying they felt a personal connection with search and eventual discovery of the slain 2-year-old girl.

Nancy Conway, from Illinois, told News 13 she and her friends spent the morning taking a "tour" of sites connected to the search for Caylee.

"We went by the house and where they found the body, to see places we've seen on the news, make it more real," Conway said. "Sad thing. Beautiful child, and she's gone."

Duckett At Memorial

The father of another missing Central Florida toddler was in line for Caylee's memorial.

Joshua Duckett, whose son Trenton Duckett has been missing since August 2006, said he felt a personal connection with the case of Caylee Anthony.

"Even though nobody really knew Caylee, you still have a connection to her after all the stuff that's been on the news," Joshua Duckett told News 13. "Being connected to the families, we share a lot of the same things, and a lot of the same thoughts."

Padilla Holds Separate Memorial At Remains Site

One person who was not among the hundreds at the memorial for Caylee was bounty hunter Leonard Padilla, who bailed Casey out of jail after her first arrest in the case.

Instead, Padilla held his own memorial service for the toddler at the site where her remains were found on Suburban Drive, near the intersection of Chickasaw Trail.

Padilla said his makeshift memorial was something he felt he had to do, and others in attendance said they felt they had to be a part of it.

"I know she sees that I do something for her," said Heidi Pnoyer, who was among about 25 people at Padilla's memorial. "I know that, and I pray every night for her."

Padilla's memorial only lasted lasted about 20 minutes. The number of people at the site was small, but emotions were still strong.

Many people said they were too emotionally attached to this story to let Caylee go so soon. Padilla, himself, said he is not going away.

Padilla also said he, in no way, was profiting on anything he has done in his involvement in the Caylee Anthony case.

"I can tell you this on the life of my grandchildren, and that is I have paid 100 percent of my and my people's expenses, and I have not taken in one red cent," Padilla told News 13. "I have turned away contributions, and I have turned away checks."

Padilla told News 13 over the weekend he was not welcome to attend, saying Caylee's grandmother, Cindy Anthony, "disinvited" him.

"She specifically stated in the media that she didn't want me there, so I can't go," Padilla said.

When News 13 asked why Cindy Anthony would not want Padilla there, he replied, "It's a battle of the titans. She figures it's Cindy's memorial, not Caylee's, so she can invite and disinvite who she wants. If she wants to disinvite me, I've got no problem with that."

No Support From Casey

While Caylee's grandparents are expected to attend the memorial, her mother, Casey, chose not to watch the service from jail, saying she does not support the public service.

Instead, Casey spent the vigil meeting with her attorney, Jose Baez, who showed up shortly after the ceremony began.

Jose Baez issued a statement Monday from his client, in which she said while she understands her parents' need for closure, and hopes this helps them, she does not believe in the need for a public memorial.

In a news conference Monday, Baez also talked about whether she would watch the memorial service on television.

"If you look at the statement, she really, in her heart, feels it should be a private matter. So it really wouldn't surprise me if she did not, but it also wouldn't surprise me if she does," Baez said. "I think she will make that decision at that point and time."

Protesters At Service

The memorial has also drawn those hoping to make statements or get attention.

Among them are members of the Westboro Baptist Church, who also picketed the memorial for a Daytona Beach soldier a couple of months before.

The Kansas-based church, considered a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, is known for protesting at funerals and memorials for U.S. troops killed in combat, saying they are God's punishment for a nation harboring homosexuals.