It was just an ordinary black garbage bag lying in a wooded area in Orlando. But when a meter reader on Dec. 11 happened to kick the bag, out rolled the skull of what appeared to be a small child. A preliminary examination quickly convinced authorities they had found the body of Caylee Anthony, the 2-year-old whose mother, Casey, had reported her missing in mid-July—after waiting a month. Among other things, the remains were found with an article of clothing similar to one that belonged to Caylee. Perhaps just as telling, the dumping ground was less than a half mile from the Anthony home, a spot, one law enforcement source says, where Casey used to hang out with friends. "It would be a pretty big coincidence," says the source, "for another toddler to be found in the same area."
It was not clear how the child had died, though duct tape was found at the scene. That item could provide opportunities or problems for Casey, who in October was indicted for murder. It could be used to bolster her claim that Caylee was kidnapped, but as Ken Adams, professor of criminal justice at the University of Central Florida points out, duct tape can also be a magnet for evidence: "Lots of things adhere to it." In any event, the find added another gruesome twist to an already bizarre case, one that has featured evidence that someone in the Anthony home searched the Internet for information on chloroform not long before Caylee's disappearance and signs that a decomposing body had been in the trunk of a car Casey used. When told that the remains had been found, Casey, who is being held in the county jail, began to cry uncontrollably and required sedation. With her trial now likely to start in March, that will surely not be her last anxious moment.
A FAMILY TRAGEDY
A "relieved" Jennifer Hudson, 27, welcomed the arrest of her estranged brother-in-law for the Oct. 24 murders of her mother, Darnell Donerson, 57; brother Jason Hudson, 29; and nephew Julian King, 7. Prosecutors alleged a birthday gift to Julia Hudson, 31—believed by William Balfour, 27, to be from another man—prompted his attack on the family. Charges were filed the same day Jennifer scored four Grammy nominations for her debut album. "My sister and I take great comfort and strength from your love and concern," Jennifer told fans. The family has opened a fund to assist families of crime victims.
The FLDS Sect
It was the child-endangerment case heard around the world. In April, 439 children were removed from the Yearning for Zion Ranch in Eldorado, Texas, after authorities received a tip alleging abuse and neglect. Eleven men, including sect leader Warren Jeffs, were charged with felonies ranging from sexual abuse of a child to bigamy. Today, 403 kids have had their cases dropped by the state, and most have moved back to the ranch. But YFZ Ranch spokesman Willie Jessop says the children are not the same: "It's going to take some time and counseling to recover," he says. Will the exonerated families sue? "I think that's a given," Jessop says. "Too many people were hurt too badly. They lost a year of their lives."
THE PREGNANT MAN
Transgender male Thomas Beatie (who kept his female reproductive organs), made headlines in June when the 34-year-old former beauty pageant finalist gave birth to daughter Susan. Since then, Beatie has been reveling in the joys of fatherhood. "It's everything I expected and more," he says. "It's the best feeling in the world." Being a doting dad suits Beatie so well that he and wife Nancy, 46, already decided to expand their family. Currently well into his first trimester with baby No. 2, Beatie doesn't yet know its gender, but he has an intuition. "This time," he says, "I think it's a boy."
PLANE CRASH SURVIVORS
DJ AM and Travis Barker
DJ AM, 35, said he was the "luckiest man alive" when he and drummer Barker, 33, survived a fiery Learjet crash in Columbia, S.C., Sept. 19 en route home after a performance. The accident claimed the lives of their friends Charles Still, 25, and Chris Baker, 29, as well as two pilots. The pair—who both suffered severe burns—have established memorial funds for their friends' families. Easing back into work, they'll reunite for a concert in L.A. on New Year's Eve.
Miaoke, 9, gained infamy as the pretty girl who lip-synched her performance at the Beijing Olympics. But she sure bounced back fast: Miaoke is now starring in the Chinese TV series An Extraordinary Beauty in the North.