A joint investigation with ProPublica

Discarded Doll: A Photo Essay of the Caylee Anthony Memorial Site

Andres Cediel, the co-producer and co-writer of the FRONTLINE film The Real CSI, visited the Caylee Anthony memorial in December 2011 as part of his reporting. This is an account of his experience at the site where her body was found, accompanied by the haunting photographs he took.

I have been to sacred sites across the globe, visiting burials and memorials from Machu Picchu to Kathmandu. But nothing compared to what I saw in Orlando, Fla., at the end of Suburban Drive.

Caylee Anthony’s remains were found here in December 2008, a block and a half from her home in an unimpressive piece of swamp. She had been missing for six months. Every detail of the case was ripe for media fodder; once her body was found, thousands of people flocked to Orlando to pay their respects. They offered items Caylee was rumored to have loved during her life — Winnie the Pooh stuffed animals, for example — and might find comfort in after her death.

Three years later, while making the FRONTLINE film The Real CSI, I stood at that very spot. It was now covered with hundreds of lifeless creatures that seem to be either emerging from, or decaying into, the muck. Some of these dolls had been here for years – as long as Caylee’s short life.

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Pilgrims had come from all over the country to pay homage. Written on scraps of paper, the barks of trees, or even on the dolls themselves, were expressions of love from Tennessee, Georgia, Texas and beyond.

As I began taking pictures, a family from Wisconsin arrived – Native Americans who, in their words, place special importance on death. The mother narrated the scene into her cell phone, describing the memorial in detail to someone miles away. The father stood resolute and concerned, while his preteen daughter looked around with a furrowed brow. They all signed a nearby tree.

A month later the site was cleaned up. One hundred trash bags of stuffed animals were discarded to make way for a permanent memorial.

Photos © Andres Cediel
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