Highly publicized murder of Caylee Anthony rivets, enrages

8:04 AM, May 8, 2011   |    comments
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In a twist of coincidence, the long-anticipated trial of a woman accused of murdering her 2-year-old daughter is slated to begin the day after the nation celebrates mothers everywhere.

Casey Anthony, one of the most notorious figures in recent American pop culture, will fight for her life in an Orlando courtroom as the state makes its death penalty case against her. And it seems as if the entire nation will pay attention.

"The attention on the Anthony case has been going on for a while, and all the statements and all the evidence creates a lot of buzz," said Brevard County Assistant State Attorney Julia Lynch, head of the sex crimes and child abuse division. "But the bottom line is there was a poor, defenseless child. It's our natural instinct to want to protect children, and we should. In cases involving children, it's worse when they are hurt at the hands of their mother or caregiver."

Anthony, 25, is charged with killing her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, who was last seen alive in June 2008. Anthony did not report her daughter missing until a month later, and the child's remains were found in woods near the family home that December.

More than 700 requests for media credentials to cover the trial have been reported. Twitter and Facebook users have been commenting nonstop while many bloggers have been sharing stories and theories about the case from the beginning.

The fascination with the case begs the question: Why? Is the public drawn to the case because of photos and videos of Anthony partying or the alleged suicide attempt by George Anthony, the baby's grandfather? Is it simply our fascination with the macabre?

Palm Beach Post columnist Frank Cerabino wrote that the truth of the matter is "when horrible things happen to less photogenic people -- or minorities -- cases like this would come and go in the national limelight with all the fanfare of an overnight rain shower."

But Melbourne psychologist Valerie Allen thinks it goes beyond the mother's good looks and the death of an innocent child. She said the mother's attitude helped heap more attention on this case and caused some to feel outraged.

"It seems (Caylee's death) was not much of a loss to (Casey)," Allen said. "She continued on with her party lifestyle, with friends, tattoos, shameful behavior in a blatant manner and with a cavalier attitude, as if her life has improved since the death of her child and she is pleased with the outcome."

The case is filled with many sensational factors: a massive search through Central Florida for the missing girl, the documented scent of decomposition in the trunk of Casey Anthony's car, photos of a seemingly carefree Anthony with her friends while her daughter was missing, incriminating diary entries, and Internet searches on her home computer for "neck breaking" and "how to make chloroform."

The case even had a Space Coast connection for a time when Brad Conway -- an Orlando attorney who grew up in Brevard -- represented Casey Anthony's parents for more than a year.

Conway told FLORIDA TODAY that he met George Anthony a few years ago when he worked as a security guard in the Orlando building where Conway lived. When the Anthonys ended their relationship with another Orlando attorney, they hired Conway to help them deal with the media and law enforcement.

Last year, Conway said he felt compelled to become a witness in the case, meaning he could no longer serve as the lawyer for George and Cindy Anthony.

"I think, at first, the attention was about a beautiful young mother and this missing 2-year-old girl," Conway said. "I think it was the cavalier attitude of Casey Anthony that piqued interest initially, but what kept it going was the Internet."

Cmdr. Doug Waller with the Brevard County Sheriff's Office said one reason for the interest in the case is society's "fascination with the abomination."

"Although society has become desensitized to many aspects of crime because we see it and hear it every day, crimes that involve children incite a strong reaction because it is so difficult to rationalize or picture the monster that could harm a child, especially if it involves a parent," Waller said.

"The reaction is only magnified when the community believes the suspects responsible fail to accept responsibility, attempt to shift blame, or in some cases, re-victimize the children during their defense."

Wayne Ivey, Florida Department of Law Enforcement resident agent in charge for Brevard County, said there is nothing worse than a crime against a child.

"This case draws immediate and massive attention because we all know and understand that if a horrific crime like this can happen to a child, it could happen to any of us," he said.

Conway, who anticipates the trial lasting a little bit less than two months, said he plans to be present for the duration. He said the lot across from the courthouse in Orlando has taken on a carnival atmosphere.

"It's going to be like a fairground," he said. "There will be satellite trucks, vendors. The whole thing is going to be a scene."

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