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Caylee Anthony memorial service draws crowd

An estimated 1,200 people celebrated the short life of Caylee Marie Anthony at a memorial service Tuesday morning at the First Baptist Church of Orlando.

The emotional service for the deceased 2-year-old lasted nearly two hours, the last 45 minutes of which were heart-felt eulogies from the little girl's family.

The Anthony family, minus jailed mother Casey Anthony, took the pulpit after a series of faith-based messages and songs. Lee Anthony, the brother of Casey Anthony, spoke to mourners and asked them to "fill their hearts with compassion and truth."

"If it's closure you seek, I hope you find it," Lee said, while his mother Cindy Anthony rubbed his back.

- Click here to see the latest photos from Caylee Anthony's memorial

- Click here to see photos of Caylee Anthony

Lee Anthony began to cry and then kissed the band around his wrist that shows Caylee's name.

"CMA [Caylee Marie Anthony] I miss you. CMA I am so proud of you. I hope you're proud of me, too," Lee Anthony said. "I will never forget."

George Anthony followed by saying, "I am proud to be the grandfather of Caylee Marie."

He spoke for 10 minutes about his granddaughter and received a standing ovation when he was finished.

Next came Cindy.

"I remember the day Casey came to me to tell me the news I was going to be a grandmother. I knew that our lives were going to be blessed. . . .

"Mostly the things I missed is watching the love she shared with her mother. Casey I hope you're able to hear me today. I love you and wish I could comfort you right now . . . take away all of your pain and wipe away your tears.

Then Cindy spoke to her daughter, Casey Anthony, Caylee's mother. Casey Anthony has been indicted in the murder of her daughter, whose remains were found in December, five months after she was reported missing.

Casey has pleaded not guilty.

"Caylee was so much like you," Cindy said. "She had your beauty and compassion. Your spirtit and she will always love you."

Pastor David Uth presided over a service that featured a mixture of sermons and songs, as the Anthonys listened attentively in the front row.

A large photo of Caylee was on the church's large screen.

Uth delivered a message focused on Jesus' special relationship with children. He seemed to look directly at the Anthonys for most of it.

The Anthonys appeared calm, holding hands and occasionally leaning on each other. They showed faint smiles from time to time as the pastor spoke.

Singer Nancy Rodriguez sang Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On," the theme song from the 1997 film Titanic. George Anthony blew a kiss at her and clapped at the end, smiling.

Shane Stutzman, the Anthonys' former pastor at Eastside Baptist Church, talked about dealing with Caylee's death.

"I realize there are many of us that have questions," Stutzman said. "In times like this, it's OK to have questions. It's human to have questions. I wish I could answer each question every person here has."

Stutzman said "my role is to remind you who has the answers."

Before the memorial, about 50 to 60 people gathered at a makeshift memorial to Caylee off Suburban Drive, a short walk from the Anthony home.

For more sights and sounds from the memorial, go the Sentinel's Breaking News Blog, and follow us on Twitter.

Sentinel photographer Red Huber, who was given exclusive permission from the Anthony family to be the still photographer of record for the memorial, is already filing photos from the church.

Some visitors put up a wooden heart-shaped memorial that reads "Caylee rest in peace."

Five members of the local chapter of the Guardian Angels are at the service.

Acting as their spokesman, a man who identify himself only as Colorado, said the group is here "to pay their respects to our friends, the Anthonys."

"We've been to their house to help establish peace among the protesters," Colorado said of his relationship with the family. "We shutdown a few fights."

Caley, he said, captured the heart of the organization's members.

"This young lady was beautiful. She was incredible. She deserved to have a long life."

Eric Rose and his girlfriend drove to Orlando from Knoxville, Tenn., to attend the memorial because they want "to support George and Cindy Anthony."

"Well, when you watch it every day on TV, you feel like you're part of it," Rose told the Sentinel this morning.

Winter Park resident Carolyne Morris said she was prepared to watch the service on television but instead decided to drive to the church.

"I want to put closure to this," Morris said. "I needed to be here for [George and Cindy Anthony]."

Pat Conner, who drove down from Savannah, Ga., said she felt "compelled to see this to the end."

Conner is a grandmother and said the service is "just so touching."

"It's love for mankind," Conner said.

Meanwhile, Casey Anthony, the dead toddler's mother, has not requested permission to watch the service at the Jail. Read more about that here.

Bianca Prieto, Rich McKay, Willoughby Mariano and Jeanette Rivera contributed to this report.

- Click here to see the latest photos from Caylee Anthony's memorial

- Click here to see photos of Caylee Anthony


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