As the defense team in the Casey Anthony murder trial presents a muddled case of fits and starts, punctuated by several slap-downs of lead defense attorney Jose Baez, a more compelling, never-before-told story about the defendant is unfolding thousands of miles away from the Orlando courtroom.
In an interview with The Daily Beast, Tracy Conroy, of Sacramento, California, is speaking out for the first time about her experience with Casey Anthony in the days immediately following news that her daughter, Caylee, was missing.
For nine days and nights in August 2008, Conroy lived inside the Anthony home and saw firsthand what she described as the “completely narcissistic world” in which Casey operated. “It was always all about her... and when she spoke of Caylee she talked about her in the past tense,” says Conroy. “It was clear to me she knew her daughter was already dead and [the search for Caylee] was all a big game to her.”
Conroy is a longtime employee of television bounty hunter Leonard Padilla, the man who orchestrated a $500,000 bond for Casey on August 21, 2008. As a condition of helping free their daughter, Padilla got parents George and Cindy Anthony to agree to allow his colleague, Conroy, to move into the Anthony home for 24/7 protection. (Conroy’s cohabitation ended after Casey was re-arrested on bad-check charges nine day later.) Padilla also came to Orlando from California with cameras in tow. Case watchers strongly believe that he, along with his employees, would like nothing better than to get a new TV show from their notoriety.
A source familiar with the Casey’s defense tells The Daily Beast that the defense team reluctantly agreed to the arrangement with Padilla by imposing a strict set of rules. First and foremost: Casey was never to be left alone with Conroy. This source believes that under the watchful eye of her parents, her defense team and their security guards, she never was.
“Frankly,” this source says, “I think the defense found Tracy to be just another part of the Padilla circus.”
Nonetheless, Conroy was the only outsider to have had constant, early access to all the major players in this Anthony family drama. And she claims she was an eyewitness to some startling behaviors.
Her final conclusion about the woman now facing a possible death penalty in Florida? ”She’s crazy, always exaggerating,” Conroy tells The Daily Beast. “She didn’t have a babysitter, she had a nanny. The smell in her car wasn’t from one dead squirrel but two. She didn’t graduate from high school but she told people she was working on not one but two degrees. It wasn’t just her father who molested her but also her brother. She’s not of this world. She’s a sick woman.”
Tracy Conroy allowed The Daily Beast to read lengthy contemporaneous notes she took during her time inside the Anthony home. Of her first meeting with Casey she wrote: “Casey walked into the room and said, ‘So you’re the babysitter?’ To my amazement, she gave me a hug and she was very upbeat and talkative. I thought there would be a few tears or at least some sadness displayed in her nature. There was no mention of the child—no tears for Caylee.”
One of the most intriguing thoughts found toward the beginning of Conroy’s 2008 notes involves a central issue at the 2011 trial. Casey, she wrote, “mentioned twice that the media had stated [her brother] Lee could be Caylee’s father. I had not heard that. The second time she told me, it was a bit odd because she just stared at me as if to judge my reaction. I said I thought that was sick.” Conroy had no way of knowing at the time that Casey Anthony’s allegations of incestuous sexual abuse by both her brother and her father would become the centerpiece of her criminal defense. Today, Conroy says she wonders if Casey hadn’t been gauging her reaction as a trial balloon. “She got a thrill out of saying outrageous things.”
Conroy has spent nearly 20 years getting to know all manner of odd human behavior as part of the bail/fugitive recovery business. From the get-go, Conroy says, she thought Casey’s lack of emotion was suspicious. And inside the home, she says she immediately detected a strange dynamic between the parents and their daughter.
Because Casey’s father had been a former police officer, Conroy says, “George got what a liar she was and he really couldn’t handle it like Cindy could. The mother had such hope that everything would be OK. Cindy would dance around (cooking and cleaning) thinking if everything was normal Casey would open up,” and reveal where their little granddaughter Caylee was.
From Tracy’s contemporaneous notes: “My first night at the Anthony home, I awoke to George and Casey arguing. He had started questioning her. I really couldn’t make out much of their conversation until he exploded, screaming, ‘Don’t fucking lie to me anymore! I am sick of your fucking lies! You have to know where she is! What did you do with her?’ She told him to ‘quit acting like a scumbag fucking cop and that he needed to act like a father.’” In the heat of the argument, Casey and Cindy told George to leave the house immediately and he complied.
Early in her stay, Conroy got to meet Casey’s older brother Lee and his girlfriend Mallory during a family dinner. Also in attendance: defense attorney Jose Baez, who brought a strange gift with him—a taped copy of an ABC 20/20 program. The segment was about another Florida family that had endured the public scrutiny of a missing baby.
According to Conroy, Baez wanted the Anthonys to learn a lesson from the story of Steven and Marlene Aisenberg, whose five-month-old baby Sabrina had disappeared from her crib in 1997. As 20/20 reported, the Aisenbergs became suspects, in part, because of their lack of publicly displayed emotion. Also, investigators had surreptitiously placed bugs in the Aisenbergs’ home to try to trap them in incriminating conversations—Baez, says Conroy, warned the Anthonys about speaking freely in their own home. (The source close to the defense team confirmed the family was, indeed, shown the videotape as a way to hammer home the seriousness of their situation.)
“Casey was sniffling” a bit, Conroy says. “I expected there to be a distraught sense coming from the family but there was nothing. They treated the 20/20 episode as a learning experience, an example of their tactics to come. Not like a grieving family.”
Yet Casey always seemed to bounce back to her “It's-all-about-me, happy place,” says Conroy. She remembers a day Casey looked outside at the gathered media trucks and then up to the thunderstorms overhead. “Well, no helicopters today,” she said with an exaggerated pout. According to Conroy, Casey loved all the attention.
Even though suspected of foul play in the disappearance of her daughter, Casey thought it was hysterically funny when Conroy—who is about the same height and build—played decoy with the media during the daily trip to Baez’s office. As cameras rolled, Conroy darted out the front door of the home with a jacket over her head and raced to a waiting car. They even fastened a man’s black sports watch around Conroy’s ankle to look like Casey’s court-ordered electronic monitoring device. Meantime, Casey snuck out the back and into brother Lee’s car.
Casey’s focus was on garnering attention, Conroy says, but she refused to talk to Tim Miller, head of EquuSearch, the group which had come to Florida and volunteered to look for Caylee. “I told Casey she should talk to him, but she said, ‘I will not speak with them. It would be a waste of time.’ I thought that was very strange.”
And this instance straight from Conroy’s notes: While watching TV news coverage of Baez shielding her from the media onslaught, Casey told Conroy she thought Baez was the best lawyer ever because when asked by a reporter what his client had whispered in his ear at that moment, “he told the media that Casey stated, ‘I’m innocent, I want to walk out of here with my head high.’ Casey revealed what she had actually said was, ‘Get me the fuck out of here!’”
Late one night Conroy heard what she thought was Casey finally breaking down in her bedroom. She knocked on the door to comfort her only to find Casey, not crying, but laughing at a Facebook message from a stranger, “a hot guy who said he thought she was ‘gorgeous.’” With a whoop and giggles, Casey, the mother of a still-missing child, waved Conroy in to take a look at his message and picture.
On another occasion, while looking at a book of baby pictures of Caylee, Conroy remembers cooing a compliment about the child. “Suddenly, there was Casey with her own book saying, ‘Yeah, but look at my baby pictures!’ And she plopped her book on my lap, covering up Caylee’s.” One night while getting ready for bed, Tracy brought up the missing child and Casey responded by baring her new shoulder tattoo which read “Bella Vita” (Italian for ‘Beautiful Life’) and declaring she’d gotten it in honor of her daughter.
“This before anyone even knew Caylee was already dead,” Tracy tells The Daily Beast.
Tracy Conroy told this story to police and the FBI on September 19, 2008. So, why hasn’t she been called to testify? The source close to the defense team said simply, “Clearly, the state has a problem with her credibility.”
But Conroy counters that by saying, “I think the prosecution had enough about [Casey’s] demeanor from all her young friends.” And, will the defense call her? “They are worried about what I might say.”