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On July 13, 2008, Cindy and George Anthony found a notice from the post office for a certified letter on their front door. George Anthony picked up the certified letter from the post office, and found that his daughter’s car was in a tow yard. When George picked up the car, both he and the tow yard attendant noted a strong smell coming from the trunk. Both later stated that they believed the odor to be that of a decomposing body. When the trunk was opened, it contained a bag of trash, but no human remains. Cindy Anthony reported Caylee missing that day, to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office. Casey told detectives several lies, including that the child had been kidnapped by a nanny on June 9, and that she had been trying to find her, too frightened to alert the authorities. From the beginning, Casey lied to detectives about what had really happened to Caylee.
According to Casey Anthony’s father, George Anthony, Casey left the family’s home on June 16, 2008, taking her daughter Caylee (who was almost three) with her and did not return for 31 days. Casey’s mother Cindy asked repeatedly during the month to see Caylee, but Casey claimed that she was too busy with a work assignment in Tampa, Florida. At other times, she said Caylee was with a nanny, who Casey identified by the name of Zenaida “Zanny” Fernandez-Gonzalez, or at theme parks or the beach. It was eventually determined that a woman named Zenaida Fernandez-Gonzalez did in fact exist, but that she had never met Casey Anthony, Caylee Anthony, any member of the Anthony family, or any of Casey’s friends. This is the point that made Casey look so guilty. Why would she make up a fake nanny that had never even heard of her? Casey’s stories did not add up and that is why she remained the number one suspect. The fact that she waited 31 days, an entire month, to report her missing three-year old daughter was very uneasy with many people.
On December 11, 2008, Caylee’s skeletal remains were found with a blanket inside a trash bag in a wooded area near the family home. Investigative reports and trial testimony alternated between duct tape being found near the front of the skull and on the mouth of the skull. The medical examiner mentioned duct tape as one reason she ruled the death a homicide, but
officially listed it as “death by undetermined means”. The defense has said that the 2-year-old girl accidentally drowned in her grandparents’ swimming pool. More than 50 investigators recovered more than 390 pieces of evidence during 10 days at the wooded scene where Caylee’s remains were found in the same residential neighborhood as the Anthony family home. Caylee was missing for seven months before her remains were found.
In October of 2008, Florida police had enough evidence to charge Casey with first degree murder, and she plead not guilty. The trial lasted six weeks, from May to July 2011. The prosecution alleged Casey murdered her daughter to free herself from parental responsibilities by giving Caylee a colorless, sweet-smelling, dense liquid called chloroform, which was considered hazardous and applying duct tape to her mouth. The defense team, said that the child had drowned accidentally in the family’s swimming pool on June 16, 2008, and that George Anthony disposed of the body. The defense also said that Casey lied about this and other issues because of ongoing personal family issues, which they said included sexual abuse by her father when she was a small girl. The defense did not present evidence as to how Caylee died, or evidence that Casey was sexually abused as a child, but challenged every piece of the prosecution’s evidence, calling much of it “fantasy forensics”. Casey did not testify concerning the claims she made on her fathers sexual abuse.
On July 5, 2011, the jury found Casey not guilty of first degree murder, aggravated child abuse, and aggravated manslaughter of a child, but guilty of four misdemeanor counts of providing false information to a law enforcement officer. The not guilty murder verdict was a public outrage, and was both attacked and defended by media and legal commentators. Some complained that the jury misunderstood the meaning of reasonable doubt, while others said the prosecution relied too heavily on the defendant’s allegedly poor moral character because they had been unable to show conclusively how the victim had died. Casey Anthony was ordered to remain in jail after Judge Belvin Perry sentenced her to four years in jail and a fine of $4,000 on her conviction of lying to law enforcement officials. Although she was sentenced four years in jail, authorities announce she must serve
only 10 more days in jail because she had already spent nearly three years in jail and was given credit for good behavior. On July 17, 2011, Casey Anthony was released from the Orange County Jail. She has remained in hiding ever since.