Motivated by affection for a child he never met, a Florida man has erected a six-foot cross on the spot where the body of little Caylee Anthony was found eight years ago.
Wally and Jeanine Goodnough of Sarasota placed the cross, inscribed with the words “Caylee Marie,” in the soggy earth and surrounded it with a white a picket fence festooned with flowers and stuffed animals.
They put up the shrine over the weekend, not realizing Tuesday was the child’s 11th birthday.
“My wife said, ‘Maybe that’s why we did. So Caylee would have something for her birthday,” Wally Goodnough told InsideEdition.com Tuesday.
It’s the third time the Goodnoughs have hammered a cross into the swamp land where Caylee’s decomposed body was found in December 2008, five months after the 2-year-old’s distraught grandmother, Cindy Anthony, phoned 911 to say her granddaughter was missing.
The previous markers were stolen. And the site, located in marshy land alongside a highway and about a quarter-mile from the grandparents’ Orlando home, had become overgrown and filled with trash, Wally said.
“People had left toys, stuffed animals. It was all overgrow. It was a swamp,” Wally said.
So he and his wife built another, bigger cross. They went back to Orlando, from their home in Sarasota, to clean up the area on Sunday. “I mowed the grass, we pulled weeds and cut back some of the trees,” he said.
“We do it for the love of that little girl. I never met that little girl. I didn’t know that little girl.”
Many Americans felt some kind of attachment the big-eyed, brown-haired toddler whose disappearance fascinated the country. Casey Anthony, the child’s mother, was tried for murder in 2011 during a nationally televised trial that ended with her acquittal.
Casey Anthony did not testify and she has said very little in public since then.
Wally Goodnough said first put up a cross not long after the Caylee’s body was discovered.
“Something just came over me and I left like I just had to build that little girl a cross,” he said.
“It had been in my heart to do that.”