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Covering Caylee Anthony – sensational and sad

 Orlando, Fla. – Orange County detectives believe 2-year-old Caylee Anthony was murdered one year ago.

It took about a month before her mother, then 22-year-old Casey Anthony, revealed Caylee was missing.

Cindy Anthony, Casey's mother, dialed 9-1-1 and within hours, the saga began to unfold in dramatic, and at times, tabloid fashion.

VIDEO: Caylee Anthony's disappearance, one year later

From the deepest recesses of my memory, I can't remember a human drama story that's quite like this one.

The closest is the story of Elian Gonzalez.

I covered those developments from the moment the young Cuban boy was found on a raft in the Florida Straits, to the day he was forcibly taken by federal authorities from his Miami home, and finally to Elian's eventual return to his father in Cuba.

Still, this murder investigation is different. Sensational, yes, but it's always sad.

It's important to remember, and it's always on my mind: a little girl is dead.

Still, there are bizarre developments. Some you may have heard; others never went reported.

Here they are, in no particular order:

*There was the psychic who contacted NBC News to say she thought she knew where Caylee's remains were.

She even sent us a video via the Internet pointing out the location.

It wasn't news. Another crazy caller we figured.

Guess what?

We looked at the tape again after Caylee's remains were discovered. Eerily, Caylee was found less than 200 yards from where the psychic sensed the 2-year-old's presence.

Janet Stone/NBC News
When Caylee Anthony disappeared, there was a crush of media at the Anthony family home. Sometimes it became overwhelming for the Anthony family and their neighbors. 

*A private investigator claimed he had footage proving Caylee's body was moved into the woods where it was found months after her death. In a hushed conversation, he offered to sell it to us. I, of course wanted to see it first. That's when he said he'd recorded over it. The tape now had pictures of his son in parade.

What then did he think we could do with the tape?

"I hear there's a way to get the previously shot video that's under the parade," he said.

Ha! Well, maybe Chloe O'Brian can do that for Jack Bauer on the TV show "24," but in the real world it just ain't possible.

*Another private investigator said he was told Caylee's remains would be found by locating a marker. He said his sources told him there were pavers piled up in the yard nearby Casey's home. Those pavers would signal the location of Caylee's body.

With camera crew in tow, the PI revealed the mysterious pavers. In the end, they were left-over materials from a construction job. Hardly a marker.

*The first word that a piece of duct tape was over Caylee's mouth came from a neighbor who overheard a two-way radio conversation. Law enforcement sources confirmed it was true, so I reported the details. But had someone kept that detail off a two-way radio, it might have not been known publicly for weeks, or longer.

*Casey Anthony found her defense attorney Jose Baez in jail. Another inmate gave Casey a tip: Baez is a legal eagle, the expert she needed.

One phone call later, Baez took on the biggest case of his career.

Janet Stone/ NBC News
When Caylee Anthony disappeared, there was a crush of media at the Anthony family home. Sometimes it became overwhelming for the Anthony family and their neighbors. 

*A one-time spokesman for Baez operated in secret. Yes, a public relations expert who was never seen and we never met.

It's odd, but the spokesman known as "Todd Black" was not a real person. He was really Gil Cabot. The enigmatic Mr. Black (Cabot) was always in the shadows. He would not use email. He would only fax, and the number on his fax machine was gibberish. When he called you, his phone number was blocked on caller ID. He never answered his own phone. He had a voicemail box right up until the day attorney Baez fired him.

*Roy Kronk, the meter-reader, who repeatedly told deputies he thought there was something odd in the woods where Caylee's body was eventually found, offered to sell a picture of a dead snake.

"A snake?"

Yes. A snake!

It was supposedly a snap shot of a snake they'd found when Kronk and others, including a deputy, entered the woods to follow up on Kronk's suspicion that there was something important to the case in the woods.

Why would anyone want that snapshot?

It's unclear, but he found a media buyer who allegedly coughed up several thousand dollars for the picture.

*A make-shift memorial to Caylee was established just 50 or so yards from where her body was discovered.

Photos. Teddy bears. Poems.

As it grew, it began to weather in the sun and the rain.

Yet more teddy bears were dropped off.

Soon, a news producer inserted himself in the question: What to do with the memorial?

He decided, after talking to Caylee's relatives, the toys should be donated to a homeless shelter.

It didn't take long, in fact it may have been just minutes, before the news producer found himself being verbally attacked. Who was he to decide this?

This memorial is for Caylee!

Cameras rolled, and that producer was no longer the observer, he was the story.

He eventually backed off, but not before learning a tough lesson: His role was to report, not participate.

* In the early days of coverage, reporters and camera crews surrounded the Anthony home 24-hours-a-day. Sometimes there was no way for a cameraman to escape to do what everyone has to do. At least one enterprising neighbor figured that was opportunity. He charged for the use of his bathroom.

* Some of the Anthony neighbors were not happy about the circus-like atmosphere: camera crews, trucks and chaos in their neighborhood. I'm pretty sure if it were my neighborhood I wouldn't be happy with the crowd either.

One news producer made a peace offering to neighbors: gift cards to the movies and a restaurant. Soon other producers were making similar offers and the simmering anger harbored by neighbors seemed to lift.

One Anthony neighbor was not happy with the media crowd. It's understandable. His yard was trampled. His grass began to die. He began to patrol his lawn, right up to the public right-of-way, a sidewalk. If anything was on his yard, he'd yell. I was scolded for having half of my foot on the sidewalk and half on the grass.

I moved.

Another TV network decided to just pay for the right to stand on his lawn.

Last I saw, some of that money must have been used for sod because the downtrodden lawn looks full and green.

* With no way to leave positions outside the Anthony house, as news could break any moment, one enterprising Orlando caterer made a kind gesture. She brought her tasty treats to the news crews and fed them for a day.

The meal was fabulous. It was an odd juxtaposition: a missing child, likely murdered, and fine food including sweet walnuts.

* Leonard Padilla, the black-cowboy hat wearing, toothpick sucking, bounty hunter from California, repeatedly said he didn't want to be on TV. Yet, he was always near to the spot where there was a development. Every time after saying he didn't want to talk to the media about the case, he would follow up with a 10 to 20 minute "press conference" on his observations and thoughts.

*It's estimated the murder trial is at least one year away. Now 23-year-old Casey Anthony is charged with killing her own daughter. If convicted, she could be sentenced to death.