Casey Anthony had a monumental meltdown at the end of the first week of her capital murder trial in Orlando, Florida. It came during a break in her mother’s testimony, during which Cindy Anthony had been describing how she found out her unmarried 19-year-old daughter was pregnant and tearfully identified pictures of her dead granddaughter’s bedroom and backyard play area.
After the jury left the room, her mother’s attorney put his arm around an emotional Cindy to lead her away—and 25-year-old Casey pitched a tantrum befitting a toddler. Tears flowed down her reddened face as two of her attorneys moved in to calm her, gesturing and whispering wildly, her hands clenched into fists and her head shaking back and forth.
Casey Anthony and her lawyers devised a defense that forced Casey’s parents into testifying against her—it seems, somehow, to have only just dawned on this death-row candidate that they were no longer on her side.
After the 15-minute recess, Casey collected herself and listened stone-faced as her mother described a litany of lies her daughter had told her in explaining why she and Caylee couldn’t come home after June 16, 2008, the last day Caylee's grandfather, George Anthony, had seen the child.
“In Casey Anthony’s private world,” as her attorney Jose Baez calls it, she had a great and responsible job as an event planner at Orlando’s Universal Studios. She had a beautiful, healthy little girl named Caylee and a wonderful long-term nanny named Zanny. Her parents adored both she and her child. Casey also believed she had a loving boyfriend, a native of New York, who had decided he was going to stay in Florida and live happily ever after with her.
But testimony has shown her world and reality has little in common. There was no job, no nanny, and in the end there was no daughter, even though Casey continued to talk about Caylee long after authorities believe the child was dead.
Testimony this week from the first two-dozen witnesses riveted trial watchers. Most compelling were the sworn statements from a large group of twentysomething pals of Casey’s. Taken together, they paint a picture of a disturbed young single mother, who, literally, lived two distinctly different lives that emerged fully only after 2-year-old Caylee mysteriously went missing.
One persona was a highly sexualized “fun party girl” who was always smiling, happy, helpful and friendly. The other was all that, plus a narcissistic pathological liar who easily wove fanciful, elaborate tales. Sometimes, it seemed clear, Casey Anthony lied for no reason at all.
Sometimes, it seemed clear, Casey Anthony lied for no reason at all.
According to testimony, it was in the first six months of 2008 that Casey Anthony began to fall apart.
She dated Ricardo Morales from February to April. “She and Caylee would stay with me four or five times a week,” he told the court.
Prosecutor Frank George asked where everyone slept. “We all slept in the same bed,” he said, “but Caylee was never up against me. Casey was in the middle.” Asked if they were ever intimate while the child was in bed with them, Morales hesitated and then said, “I don’t believe so.” The couple broke up in April for unstated reasons. Casey falsely told Ricardo that her parents were going to give her their house and she was going to live there with a girlfriend and a live-in nanny.
Chris Stutz said he had met the defendant in 2005 at football game. He told the seven-woman, five-man jury that in May 2008 Casey and little Caylee suddenly showed up at the house he shared with his parents, who were out of town. “They stayed the night,” he told the court.
On June 8, 9, and 10, Casey and her child were back spending nights in Ricardo Morales’ bed.
During breaks, the gallery taking it all in was struck by how a woman who based her defense in part on allegations she was the victim of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of her father and brother and who didn’t like to leave her child near her father, instead took her child along on sleepover dates.
In early June 2008, Casey met college student Tony Lazarro at a birthday party. By all accounts the two fell hard for each other and Casey introduced her little girl to her new boyfriend and his pals. Lazarro testified that Casey began to spend nights with him in the two-bedroom, two-bath apartment that he shared with various roommates. But, perhaps because she’d learned her lesson with Morales, Caylee never spent the night there, according to testimony from both Lazarro and several of his friends.
Where was Caylee during these evenings? That has yet to be determined, although the circumstantial evidence points to searches on the Anthony family computer for information on making chloroform (along with "neck breaking" and "how to make weapons out of household products"), and some have theorized the child might have been sedated and left in the trunk of Casey’s car. (There has been no evidence presented to back up this theory.)
In less than two weeks of dating, Casey declared her love for Lazarro and began spending more time at his apartment. By June 15, Casey stopped going home to the house she shared with her parents. At exactly that time, everyone has testified, they stopped seeing Caylee.
It was the beginning of a 31-day period in which Casey let loose, going to nightclubs and staying out late drinking and dancing with pals. She ignored her mother’s repeated pleas to bring the child home.
Casey’s lie mechanism was in overdrive. On June 16, her mother testified Casey said she had to go to a business conference in Tampa. Zanny the nanny was going along so her mother shouldn’t worry. In addition, Casey’s friend Juliette and her daughter Annabelle were going too so the children could enjoy Busch Gardens during the workday. She was always in daily contact with her daughter, Grandma Cindy told the court, but after several days went by, she pressed for an answer as to when they were coming home.
“She said, ‘Don’t panic, Mom,’ but Zanny has been in a car accident,’” Cindy Anthony said with a shake of her head because she now realizes there never was a person named Zanny and Juliette and her daughter Annabelle don’t exist either.
“She told me she was taking care of (Zanny) in the hospital… there was no one else to do it and she felt obligated.” Cindy asked to speak to Caylee, a very verbal child who loved to talk on the phone, but Casey always said she was somewhere else.
It should be noted that the defense claims Caylee died in a swimming accident on June 15 and Grandpa George was there to fish her lifeless body out of the backyard pool. Under oath, George Anthony has denied it all.
After the hospital episode, Casey told her mother she was in Jacksonville with Caylee, Zanny, and a potential suitor named Jeff.
“Casey is a grown woman. After 21, she came and went at will. Who am I to interfere with that?” Cindy told the court.
The reality is that from June 16th, Casey Anthony was at her boyfriend Tony’s apartment—never in Tampa, never in Jacksonville.
The prosecution showed a video of her arm-in-arm with Lazarro at a Blockbuster video store on June 16, the night it is suspected that Caylee died. Nearly a dozen other surveillance videos taken during mid-June to mid-July at Target, IKEA, and Winn Dixie supermarket show a young woman gleefully shopping for parties and the new home she was about to occupy.
The defense has yet to put on its case, of course, but its task seems monumental. They will likely say Casey Anthony lied because her father’s sexual abuse at the age of 8 taught her early on that lying was normal. Her world became necessarily different than everyone else’s.
Her attorneys admit she is a liar. The big question hanging over this trial after this week is why should the jury believe she isn’t still lying now to save her skin.
Investigative journalist and syndicated columnist Diane Dimond has covered all manner of celebrity and pop culture stories. Her latest book is Cirque Du Salahi which uncovered the full story behind Tareq and Michaele Salahi, the so-called "White House Gate Crashers". Dimond has written extensively about the John Edwards sex scandal for the DailyBeast and she first broke the news that King of Pop Michael Jackson was under investigation for child molestation. She is author of the book, Be Careful Who You Love—Inside the Michael Jackson Case. She lives in New York with her husband, broadcast journalist Michael Schoen.