article

06.28.11

Is This Caylee's Daddy?

The great mystery of the Casey Anthony trial: Who fathered the 2-year-old she’s accused of murdering? Diane Dimond reveals the person whose DNA may finally solve the riddle.

The man below is Caylee Anthony’s father… if you believe Michael Duggan’s mother, who is “100 percent certain” she is the dead 2-year-old’s paternal grandmother, and is willing to submit to lie-detector and DNA tests to prove it.

Casey Anthony, according to testimony and first-person accounts, often told her family and friends that Caylee’s biological father—whose identity remains one of the great mysteries of the first-degree murder trial—died in a car accident in 2007. Grandma Cindy Anthony recently repeated that assertion in court, under oath. Meanwhile, Michael Patrick Duggan, a young man with a perpetual smile, died in a one-car accident in Falmouth, Massachusetts, in October 2007.   

That isn’t a coincidence, says Duggan’s mother, 47-year-old Donna MacLean of Rutland, Massachusetts, who gave a series of interviews, her first, to The Daily Beast. Like Anthony, Duggan had a colorful family history. His parents divorced and his father had a sex-change operation, according to various records, transforming from Wilfred to Wendy—she is now in jail in Florida for serious DUI violations. Duggan (pronounced DUGG-an) wandered South after high school, first to an uncle’s home in North Carolina, and then on his own. “He was living in Tennessee, working for a moving company [when Caylee was conceived],” says MacLean.  “He was traveling all over the region moving households of furniture.” It had become “routine for him to visit Florida,” according to his mother. His paternal grandparents had regularly taken him to visit friends who lived near Disney World in Orlando.   

MacLean says she and her son always stayed in touch. In late summer of 2007 during a telephone call, “we were talking about the upcoming birth of my other son’s baby boy,” says MacLean. “I said I had really hoped for a baby girl grandchild, and that’s when Michael told me that he already had one.”

At this point in time Caylee Anthony would have been close to 2 years old.  

“I asked him about the circumstances… who is the family? He said the parents were George and Cindy Anthony. I asked who she was and he said her name is Casey. He told me her dad was a cop and I said, ‘Oh, Mike! Does she want child support?’” At this point, Duggan was working as a low-paid waiter in Passaic, New Jersey. 

“I said I had really hoped for a baby girl grandchild, and that’s when Michael told me that he already had one.”

According to Donna MacLean, her 24-year-old son told her the young woman he’d impregnated came from a family with a nice, big home and she was not pressing him for support. In fact, he said, she was talking about possibly putting the child up for adoption. He never mentioned the city in which the child and her mother lived. Testimony at Casey Anthony’s murder trial has revealed she talked to others about the possibility of putting Caylee up for adoption.

MacLean says she learned little more about the circumstances surrounding what would have been her first grandchild because within weeks Michael was dead. A stepsister riding in the car with him during a trip home to Massachusetts also perished. Crippled by grief, MacLean says she forgot about the conversation about a granddaughter.

In May 2011, When Casey Anthony went on trial for murdering Caylee, this Massachusetts housewife became riveted to photographs of the little girl. Like much of the nation she has followed the capital-murder case closely.

“She looked so much like my family, like I did when I was little. The big eyes … I just kept staring into those big brown eyes.” MacLean, who also has brown eyes like her son Mike, says she didn’t realize what intrigued her so about the pictures of Caylee until recently, when she says began to remember details of that long ago phone call with her son. She is wracked with frustration that she hadn’t asked more questions, including the name of the moving company her son worked for or the city in which the child lived.

“I remembered Mike had said Casey offered that if he came back to town they could all ‘crash at a friend’s house.’ Michael thought it was cool.” During testimony at Casey Anthony’s murder trial there has been much said about the nights she spent out—with and without her child—crashing at the homes of various friends.

MacLean’s account is complicated, of course, by the fact that so much of the Casey Anthony drama is based on the tales of a proven liar.  Anthony has told numerous stories about who the biological father of her child might be, reportedly saying that the 2007 car-accident victim was named Eric Baker or a man named Josh from Georgia with whom she worked at Universal Studios. Another crash victim named Jesus Ortiz has been mentioned as a possible father.  Many people in Casey Anthony’s sphere, including her parents, believed for a time that a preacher’s son named Jesse Grund was the child’s dad.  And, of course, Anthony’s defense team has fed the suspicion that Casey’s brother, Lee, or her father George, was responsible.  DNA tests have excluded Grund, Lee, and George as a possible parent to the murdered child.

The difference between all those other potential possibilities is that they all deny it—the Ortiz family has expressly rejected the idea. Only Donna MacLean has come forward.

Admittedly, the only proof that MacLean has is her word and the circumstantial coincidence that her son died in a car crash in 2007. Given that she says her son told her that he had a daughter, she confided that bombshell with surprisingly few people who can back up her story contemporaneously—citing just her son from a different marriage, Josh Van Kleef.

When reached by The Daily Beast, Van Kleef, a car salesman in Massachusetts, says he remembers his mother talking to him about a conversation she had with half-brother Mike right around the time his son was born (September 2007). "At first when she told me he could possibly be a father, we wondered if he was just saying that to be in competition with me," says Van Kleef, citing his son’s impending arrival. He also says he vaguely remembers some talk about a cop in her family.

MacLean, homebound with a back and hip disability, says she is willing to take a lie-detector test, submit DNA for grandparent’s testing and reached out to George and Cindy Anthony almost two weeks ago.

“She contacted me and told me the whole story,” the Anthonys’ attorney, Mark Lippman, confirms. He declined to relay his clients’ reaction was to MacLean’s account.

“I don’t want to have additional pressure on my clients at this time,” says Lippman. “Certainly she has the right to pursue the truth but I don’t understand to what end, the child is clearly dead.”  He suggested McLean hire a lawyer to petition the court for a DNA test, but is adamant that any action wait until after the trial.  Lippman also expressed concern that MacLean might be trying to insert herself into a notorious case, either for attention or monetary gain. 

Donna MacLean insists she wants nothing but information. “I can’t just walk away. I’m trying to do this peacefully without raising a ruckus,” she says.  “I would never in a million years bring something like this forward if I wasn’t 100 percent positive.  My son wouldn’t lie to me.”  

“All I want is to know the truth,” MacLean adds.  “I’ve grieved for my son and now I want to grieve for my grandchild.”