In the summer of 2008, Orlando, Fla. toddler Caylee Anthony disappeared, only to be discovered six months later a short distance from her home, her skeletal remains stuffed in plastic bags and her mouth sealed with duct tape. Her mother, Casey Anthony, was charged with the horrific crime after not reporting her daughter missing for a month, and allegedly lying to police.
As Casey, now 23, faces a murder trial and the possibility of the death penalty, her parents, Cindy and George Anthony, are standing by their daughter as they search for the truth.
And, for the first time, three of Casey's defense lawyers discuss the case in an exclusive interview with CBS News' "The Early Show" anchor Maggie Rodriguez.
"In a moment's notice, our lives can change. We went through probably the worst tragedy that one could face," said Cindy Anthony.
For Cindy and George Anthony and their entire family, that moment came suddenly in the summer of 2008, when their precious 2-year-old granddaughter, Caylee, who lived with them, disappeared. Their lives have been a horrendous nightmare ever since."What we've been through in a year has been hell," George told Maggie Rodriguez. "It's changed us dramatically in our faith, in our belief in God."
It was bad enough that Caylee had disappeared. But what's made it even more devastating for the Anthonys is that their daughter, Casey, has been charged with murdering her."Casey would not hurt Caylee," said George. "She wouldn't do that.
"But Casey Anthony had become a suspect because she had lied repeatedly to detectives and waited a month before reporting that her daughter was missing.In December 2008, six months after her disappearance, the search for Caylee ended with a gruesome discovery just blocks from the Anthony home. The little girl's remains were found in a wooded area; her mouth was sealed with duct tape and her body stuffed in two plastic bags.
Now, Caylee's 23-year-old mother is in jail awaiting trial. Casey Anthony could face the death penalty.
"I pray every night that when I wake up the next morning, that it would be just a nightmare. And Caylee would come in the morning and wake me up," Cindy told Rodriguez. "But you know - that prayer can't be answered."
For a grandmother and grandfather, the questions are almost unimaginable about what really happened to Caylee. And is it even remotely possible that their daughter could have done this?
"It's been a tough year. And I miss my girls," said a teary-eyed Cindy.
George and Cindy's own attorney, Brad Conway, said the family wants only one thing.
"They brought me on this journey to help them find the truth" he explained. "They want the truth. But it's gonna be difficult, very difficult when we get there."
And what if the answers lead to Casey? "Then I'll have my answers," said Cindy.
The investigation of Caylee's disappearance and murder has been perhaps the nation's biggest crime story for over a year and the frenzy shows few signs of letting up. Diane Fanning has just written a book on the Caylee Anthony murder.
"Sometimes it just matters if it hits somebody right in the media. And this one did," Fanning said. "Probably 90 percent of the country had been following that case from the first day."
People seem transfixed by every minute development - like the work of thousands of volunteers who flooded central Florida on foot, on horseback and by boat - all looking for Caylee in the shadow of the Magic Kingdom.
"She lived in a place that's considered a mecca for children. And this beautiful little child disappears from here. It just is jarring," Fanning said. "And it makes for a good story."
A morbid fascination stalks the Anthonys and even their neighbors; so do belligerent protesters.
"There has been no privacy from the inception of this case," Conway said. "Their home was invaded by people that live in Orlando, protesting. Protesting the fact that Casey was still living there."
The protests began in late summer 2008, long before Caylee's remains were found, as details of the case began leaking out and Casey went in and out of jail, arrested for lesser crimes like child neglect and making false statements.
"People hate her. I think it's almost like a hangman's type mentality for some of these people," said George.
In early August 2008, after one of her arrests, Casey was openly defiant, complaining to her parents about the public's outrage with her:
"I don't care about the media; I don't care about what people have been saying about me. That doesn't matter. Because I know it's not true. And everyone that knows me knows that isn't true," she said from jail.
But protesters refused to leave, often dragging little children with them, screaming obscenities and pushing and shoving at all hours of the day and night.
"How are you supposed to feel when you're being called particular names? It just gets to you after a while. It needles you. It eats at you," George explained. "If you get spit on... and you get stuff thrown at you, what are you supposed to do? You're supposed to stand back and just not let it bother you?"
Conway said George and Cindy Anthony have been unfairly targeted and "that needs to stop."
The protests died down when Casey was arrested for the murder in October 2008. The media frenzy never really subsided, and for Cindy, it eventually became too much.
"I've asked you guys to respect my privacy," she said, addressing the reporters and protesters outside her home at one point. "All of you leeches, all of you parasites, all of you maggots out here. OK? That's true. Because that's exactly what you guys are. All of you guys!"
George Anthony finally reached a breaking point, too. In January 2009, he was hospitalized after
threatening to commit suicide. Sheriff's deputies found him in a Daytona Beach motel after he'd sent family members text messages saying he didn't want to live anymore.
"Knowing that my granddaughter was gone, knowing where my daughter's at and what she's facing for the possibility of her life, how much it's hurting Cindy... I couldn't take it no more," George told Rodriguez. "I wanted to join Caylee. I miss her so so much."
These days George says he's doing much better, but is still struggling with the overwhelming loss and an uncertain future - all of it under the watchful eye of an insatiable public.
"People drive by every single day, get out and take photographs... people just driving by... It happens all the time," he pointed out to Rodriguez as he spotted someone taking a photo outside his home during their interview.
"They have made themselves part of the story," said John Morgan, a prominent attorney and businessman in Orlando. "It's out of the movies! Like I said, great looking guy, beautiful family... [a] little house in a great subdivision. But you would never have imagined what we've now discovered that was going on inside that place."
Something friends of Casey say was going on for a long time.
"Casey Anthony... she's a habitual liar... a troubled human being," explained Pam Bondi, an assistant state attorney in Tampa, Fla., who is familiar with, but has no connection to the Anthony case. "Clearly she needed help."
"It erupted," Morgan said. "It was Mount Vesuvius."