Ten years ago, the remains of 2-year-old Caylee Anthony were found in the woods less than a mile from her grandparents’ Orlando, Fla., home, where she had lived with her mom, Casey Anthony.
In 2011, Casey Anthony was acquitted of murdering Caylee, but found guilty of lying to law enforcement—four misdemeanor counts, resulting in a four-year prison sentence that turned into 12 days after factoring in time already served.
To this day, no one who was not there can say for sure what happened to Caylee, whether her death was an accident, prompting Casey to panic and handle the aftermath shockingly poorly, as the defense argued, or whether the child was killed intentionally by her mother.
“I don’t give a s–t about what anyone thinks about me,” Anthony told the Associated Press last year. “I don’t care about that. I never will. I’m OK with myself. I sleep pretty good at night.”
Anthony didn’t particularly come off as a sympathetic figure during the trial, either, her seemingly callous actions after Caylee disappeared (such as entering a “Hot Bod” contest at a club a few days later in addition to not calling police, and then accusing a babysitter of kidnapping) leaving much to be concerned about. Yet after 10 hours of deliberations, a jury found her not guilty of murder and aggravated manslaughter.
Not, however, because they were fully convinced of her innocence.
“We didn’t know, so it was hard to know if we made the right decision based on what actually happened without having enough evidence to say definitively she committed a crime or she didn’t,” Jennifer Ford, Juror No. 3 on the case, told ABC News‘ George Stephanopoulos after the verdict.
“I can’t find her guilty of a crime if I’m not sure a crime was committed,” Ford said, explaining that she couldn’t 100 percent rule out it wasn’t an accident.
She continued, “I’m not sure what I needed exactly [from the prosecution]. They had strong circumstantial evidence. They just needed something solid to just say it absolutely wasn’t an accident, kind of tie it all together and not leave the dots for us—or me—to kind of connect with speculation and accusations, and guessing. We’re instructed not to do that. So for us to connect the dots with question marks—it didn’t feel justifiable to do that.”
AP Photo/Joe Burbank, Pool
A lot of people looking from the outside in at the trial wouldn’t have agreed with that conclusion. Of course that doesn’t matter one bit when someone is acquitted in a court of law in the United States. Legally, that person is free and innocent until proven guilty. Having been acquitted, she can’t be put on trial again for the same charges. Case closed, for Anthony.
But not for Caylee, and no matter how well-rested Casey is, in reality the death of her daughter in 2008 is not something the woman once alternately dubbed “the most hated mom in America” and “Tot Mom” will be allowed to turn the page on anytime soon.
That’s sad, in a way, since she’s still only 32, so there’s still a lot of notoriety ahead of her, deserved or not. But it’s also entirely unsurprising, considering the open-ended news cycle for crimes that tick off all the boxes for mass fascination—white, young, photogenic female suspect; tragic child victim; flashy defense attorney; shocking trial accusations; no real resolution. (And who says that, about sleeping fine at night?)
In April 2012, Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed measure HB 37, known as “Caylee’s Law,” making it a felony to lie to authorities pertaining to a missing child.
“…I still believe to this day that Casey is responsible for Caylee not being here with us, and I think she should serve some time for that,” George Anthony, Casey’s father and Caylee’s grandfather, said in an interview that aired on Dr. Oz this week. The defense alleged that Caylee accidentally drowned in the family pool and George disposed of the child’s body to help protect his daughter. During his opening statement at trial, lead defense attorney Jose Baez also claimed that Casey’s many lies all sprang from a coping mechanism she’d developed after being sexually abused by her father as a child.
“I know deep in my heart I never did anything to my daughter at any age at all,” George, who has denied hurting Casey or having anything to do with Caylee’s death, told Dr. Mehmet Oz. “My gosh, her and I had a great relationship. We were buddies growing up and it hurt me to the core to be blamed for something that I didn’t do.”
When Casey was little, she was “really good at telling stories,” he also said.
George and Cindy—who was the first person to report Caylee missing, about a month after Casey had moved out, ostensibly taking the child with her—remain together, married for the last 37 years. The murder investigation and trial put added stress on their marriage, which was already on the verge of collapse before Caylee died; but, George said, they’ve “stuck together.”
The couple remain in disagreement over the likely possibilities of what happened, with Cindy the only one sounding convinced that Caylee’s death was an accident.
AP Photo/Joe Burbank/Pool
“Cindy and I must have really raised a bad seed somewhere. I don’t understand it. I don’t understand what happened with her,” George said on the A&E special Casey Anthony’s Parents Speak, which aired in May.
Cindy told Dr. Oz that the last time she saw Casey was two years ago, and George last saw her about six months after that.
“We’re just not connected anymore, and that hurts. I wish I could be part of her life, but I would never feel comfortable around her. I can’t trust her. I can’t trust the things she’s going to say out there,” George said. “I know she’s given some other interviews that she said she was never going to do, and things she’s said and done, it’s just, it’s wrong. She needs to just not be here anymore.”
AP Photo/Brian Blanco
Casey, meanwhile, has remained in Florida, attempting to have a life after being simultaneously tried in criminal court and the court of public opinion.
“I’m still not even certain as I stand here today sure about what happened,” Anthony told the AP last year. “Based off what was in the media, I understand the reasons people feel about me. I understand why people have the opinions that they do.”
Comparing herself to Alice in Wonderland, she quipped, “The queen is proclaiming: ‘No, no, sentence first, verdict afterward!'”
She continued, “I sense and feel to this day that is a direct parallel to what I lived. My sentence was doled out long before there was a verdict. Sentence first, verdict afterward. People found me guilty long before I had my day in court. I sense and feel to this day that is a direct parallel to what I lived. My sentence was doled out long before there was a verdict. Sentence first, verdict afterward. People found me guilty long before I had my day in court.”
In January 2012, a 4 1/2-minute video that was said to have been shot in October 2011 popped up on YouTube featuring the first off-the-cuff public comments from Anthony since the verdict.
“It’s just a little surreal how much things have changed since July and how many things haven’t changed,” Anthony says hesitantly in the video. “But the good thing is that things are starting to look up and things are starting to change in a good way. I just hope that things stay good and that they only get better.”
She said she had recently adopted a dog.
That July, a year after the trial ended, Anthony attorney J. Cheney Mason, who served pro bono as Baez’s co-counsel, told CNN that his client didn’t go out much and spent a lot of time working out, reading, watching movies and avoiding the news.
In 2013, Mason returned to CNN, saying, “Casey is still having to live in isolation and in secret. She can’t go out in public. There are still morons out there threatening to hurt her, just like there are those from time to time that still threaten me and my family, because we won.
“Casey is resilient though. Any woman that can spend three years in solitary confinement, go through the trial that we did, and survive as she has, you got to say she’s got some good stock in her.”
Red Huber-Pool/Getty Images
Anthony filed for bankruptcy in 2013 as well, claiming debts of almost $800,000, primarily legal fees, and less than $1,000 in assets.
Baez, meanwhile, penned a best-selling book, Presumed Guilty—Casey Anthony: The Inside Story, and Lifetime made a movie out of the ordeal, starring Oscar Nuñez as Baez and Rob Loweas the lead prosecutor, Florida State Attorney Jeff Ashton.
“She can’t go out in public now, and it’s been two years, two years ago this week,” Mason said.
In 2014, talking about his new book Justice in America, Mason told CNN that Anthony never considered taking a plea, though naturally the idea was raised.
“Casey got very angry about that. She got very angry to hear talk about it. She didn’t want to hear it,” the lawyer said. “Casey would fight it till her last breath. She didn’t kill her daughter.”
Yet at the same time, she was practically still in jail.
“She has to live constantly on guard. She can’t go out in public,” Mason said, sharing that Anthony works from home as a “clerk, secretary and stuff like that.”
“I think Casey has a lot of world left to have to deal with,” he continued. “She hasn’t been freed from her incarceration yet ’cause she can’t go out. She can’t go to a beauty parlor, she can’t go shopping to a department store, she can’t go to a restaurant, she can’t even go to McDonald’s. She can’t do anything.”
Anthony didn’t trust many people, Mason also said, and was wary of social situations. He and his wife maintained regular contact, and they and a few other people who worked on her defense had become a surrogate family.
She “does not have any blood family anymore,” Mason added.
According to Casey’s parents’ timeline, she saw or spoke to George and Cindy sometime after that.
In a weird twist of true-crime synergy, Anthony lived for a time with Patrick McKenna, who was the lead investigator for the defense on her case and an investigator for O.J. Simpson‘s defense team back in the mid-1990s. Casey did research and social media searches for McKenna and in 2016 she filed paperwork signaling her intent to go into business as a photographer.
She eventually sat down for a series of interviews with the AP, conducted over a week, in early 2017. Afterward she tried to quash the story, telling the reporter via text that, while sorting out her bankruptcy, the rights to her story had been purchased by a third-party entity for $25,000 and she was actually “prohibited from speaking publicly” about her case.
But it doesn’t work like that.
Talking to the AP, Anthony tried to explain why she lied to investigators, the crime of which she was convicted.
Anthony said, “People lie to the cops every day. Cops lie to people every day. I’m just one of the unfortunate idiots who admitted that they lied.” Asked if she lied out of panic, she replied, “My dad was a cop. You can read into that what you want to.”
“Here’s the problem,” she continued. “Even if I would’ve told them everything that I eventually told to the psychologist who evaluated me and the two psychologists who evaluated me over the course of three years—I hate to say this, but I firmly believe I would still have been in the same place. Because cops believe other cops. Cops tend to victimize the victims. I’ve never tried to make myself a victim. I see why I was treated the way I was, even had I been completely truthful.”
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She again insisted that she was asleep, her mother was at work and Caylee was with George Anthony when whatever happened to her happened.
“Everyone has their theories [about what happened], I don’t know,” Casey said. “As I stand here today, I can’t tell you one way or another. The last time I saw my daughter, I believed that she was alive and was going to be OK, and that’s what was told to me.”
While she couldn’t say for sure what happened, “What I remember is, being in bed, and my mom coming in before she left for work, and saying goodbye to us. And then waking up several hours later not knowing where she was.”
She mentioned McKenna and noted that she could “empathize” with what happened to O.J. Simpson, who was acquitted of a double murder in court but was widely presumed to be guilty by countless other people.
Cindy Anthony said on the A&E special this year that she last saw Casey at bedtime on the night of June 15, 2008—a Sunday, Father’s Day. The next day, she went to work and George recalled seeing Casey and Caylee. Cindy says she she got a text from Casey that night saying she was working late and Caylee was with the babysitter. Cindy and George say they never saw Caylee again.
George said on the special, “We were always so trusting and believing what we were told.” Cindy added, “We didn’t have any reason to doubt her…I knew Casey would never put Caylee in harm’s way.”
AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack
Casey told the AP that of course she wished she knew what happened but it was a forever blank space in her mind.
“I’ve done enough research, I’ve done enough psychology seminars, I’ve been tested, I’ve gone to the psychological evaluations, talked about this to the point where I’ve been in a puddle and not able to talk about it for days afterwards,” Anthony said. “[Caylee] is still the central part of my life, the central part of my being, always will be. If I am blessed enough to have another child—if I’d be dumb enough to bring another kid into this world knowing that there’d be a potential that some jackass, their little snot-nose kid would then say something mean to my kid—I don’t think I could live with that.”
When Casey was pregnant at 19 with Caylee, her parents didn’t find out until she was six months along.
Asked about the possibility of his daughter having another child one day, George Anthony told Dr. Oz, “Knowing now that she could potentially be a mom again, I hope she does better this time around than what she did last time.”
It sounds as if Anthony’s life is steadily approaching something resembling normal, having spent almost the entirety of her adult life accused of a crime, on trial or in the purgatory that came afterward. She at least feels more comfortable going outside again, and she made headlines when she was spotted in February 2017 participating in a protest march, organized by South Florida Activism and Women’s March Florida PBC, that ended up at President Donald Trump‘s Mar-a-Lago estate in West Palm Beach.
“He is giving her a clean slate,” a source told the magazine this month. “She’s now in her ’30s [as is her boyfriend]. She’s a different person than she was when she was an emotionally stunted 21-year-old. He sees what she could be.”