One Little Girl: Caylee Anthony and why we care

June 23, 2011

Tags: Casey Anthony, Casey Anthony trial, Caylee Anthony, Cindy Anthony testimony, Kathryn Casey, true crime author, true crime, mysteries, mystery author

Lately, I've had a hard time concentrating on work. I keep wondering what the heck is going on in Florida.

Of course, you all know what I'm talking about. I'd bet the majority of folks in the U.S. have at least heard of the tragic death of two-year-old Caylee Anthony. We first learned in July 2008 that this precious child was missing, when her grandmother, Cindy, called police, saying Caylee hadn't been seen in a month. For the past three years, we've been mesmerized by the search for the child, the discovery of her body, and the bizarre behavior of Casey, little Caylee's mom. Now our attention has turned to the courtroom drama as Casey is tried for her daughter's murder. A guilty verdict could bring the death penalty.

Apparently I'm not the only one having this problem, trying not to watch the coverage and keep up with my life and work. I belong to true-crime groups, where I pop in to do everything from sharing recipes to dissecting the latest sensational case. In all the groups, the posts are dominated by the Anthony trial. And when I post about it on my facebook page [], I'm flooded with comments.

Let's face it, the Anthony case is one of those, like the Peterson sagas (Scott and Drew), that many of us find nearly addictive.

Why? I've done a lot of thinking about this, and I keep coming back to thoughts I had even before Caylee's body was discovered; so this blog post is my guess, my best shot at explaining why the death of one little girl and the family/courtroom drama surrounding it has garnered so much attention.

At times the Anthony case has brought to mind of one of my favorite movies, a 1951 Billy Wilder noir classic, Ace in the Hole. In the film, Kirk Douglas portrays an unethical, down-on-his-luck reporter who stumbles upon a story with worldwide headline potential, a man trapped in a cave. We quickly learn that the poor sap is a good guy married to the shrew of the century, so vile that while her husband remains in harm's way, she seduces the Kirk Douglas character. Although the husband could be easily saved, the reporter and the wife conspire to draw out the rescue for their own gains, until it's tragically too late.

Why does the Anthony case remind me of this old movie? It's something I believe Douglas's editor says in the film, an explanation for why the cave story has legs, endurance in the news biz. I can't quote it verbatim, but it's on the order of: If there were 100 miners trapped it wouldn't be as compelling a story, but one little guy, one common man the readers can identify with, that makes it huge.

Now, I may have parts of that wrong. It's been a long time since I've watched the film. Maybe Douglas's character not the editor muses about what fascinates readers? It's possible. But the point is that little Caylee is like that man trapped in the cave. She's a solitary sympathetic victim, in this case a beautiful, innocent child. We get angry, thinking about all the options Casey Anthony had, how so many families would have loved to adopt, care for, and keep that sweet child safe. We're sad that a mother could be so unfeeling and cold. The prospect that she could murder her own child is chilling. Yet mothers do kill, we all know that, tragically often.

Today I watched snippets of Cindy Anthony, Casey's mother, on the stand, called by the defense. Earlier, she was a prosecution witness, recounting how she'd smelled something foul in the trunk of Casey's car. Today, she appeared to be trying hard to shore up her daughter's case, saying she not Casey was the one who'd searched for chloroform on the Internet. Personally, I didn't believe Cindy. To me, it strains logic. The happenstance is just too farfetched. Plus there's the contradiction that twenty-seconds before the term was searched for, it appears Casey was on the computer checking her myspace page.

Yet I do feel sorry for Cindy. What a horrible situation to be in. Her granddaughter is dead, and now her daughter is on trial for her life. Can you imagine a Greek tragedy with more drama? I can't.

What would you do confronted with such a situation, a daughter on trial for murdering your granddaughter? Where would your allegiance take you? How would you reconcile testifying for or against your own child? There's no doubt that Cindy Anthony is caught in the cross-hairs, is there?

Yet at the same time, there's the other side of that coin, and I have to admit that it has most often appeared that the Anthony family like the characters in Ace in the Hole are more concerned with their own desires than finding justice for that poor, precious child.


  1. June 23, 2011 5:40 PM EDT
    You know, Kathryn, I have thought about Cindy's position and it would be nothing short of hell on earth to be put there. You've lost your granddaughter and are possibly going to lose your daughter, too. What would a mother do? Nothing she can do will bring Caylee back, but she can do whatever is within her power to save Casey...and no matter what Casey has done, she's still the child that Cindy carried in her womb for nine months and gave birth to. She's still that little girl that her parents adore.
    I pray that I NEVER know, but I would hope that I would honor the oath that I had just taken before God to tell the truth and pray that He blessed my honesty.
    I don't think that's what Cindy did...I think she lied and manipulated the truth to help her daughter. I don't think, in the long run that it will do what she intended. I believe the prosecution will take her down in flames.
    It's just too coincidental that she happened to look up chloroform during the time frame she says she did.
    It's also possible, IF she did indeed do those searches, that Casey picked up on "chloroform" and that gave her the idea of what to use to sedate or kill Caylee.
    I think this trial has captivated my attention because I do believe that Casey is quilty and I want justice for the beautiful child that she killed. Being purely circumstantial, the case could go either way...I want to see first hand all the evidence, body language, opinions of of others watching, etc and be able to draw my own verdict and see how it matches up with the final verdict.
    It reminds me of a good Kathryn Casey book...can't put it down! ;o)
    - Becky Boyer
  2. June 23, 2011 5:58 PM EDT
    Kathryn,I think that Caylee has become all of ours,a nation's child and a symbol of what happens when families fall apart.While I have sympathy for Cindy,she is not thinking rationally...perjuring herself on the stand is not going to help anyone.I'm not saying that Casey is guilty or innocent.Confronted with this situation,I believe that my allegiance would be with the truth.I would put on my big girl bloomers and deal with it.I would look at my child and with as much tenderness that I could muster would tell her that I love her,but enough is enough.I believe that it is never to late to admit that I made mistakes with her,but that we would be in it together for the long haul...and I would work like hell to change myself.Then Kathryn,I would find a quiet spot and cry my heart out.
    - elizabeth O'Malley
  3. June 23, 2011 6:31 PM EDT
    Kathryn, I think you are on the money....concerns of their own (Anthonys)desires keep this family from doing the right thing. I also agree one component that drives the public interest is the singleness of poor little Caylee's, but the media has driven a lot of interest. I know more than a few who have not followed this case but are now getting hooked on this trial I think alot of the interest is driven by the bizarre behavior and lies.
    A little off topic,I hope you don't mind, but I attended a day of this trial when I was in FL.The day I attended was June 8, when all of the computer forensics was admitted in the case. I've been writing about my experience but it was such a long day I had to split it in parts.
    Today right before Cindy came on the stand I was working on part 2 and wrote, " The rest of the witnesses today were computer forensic experts. While their testimony was long and hard to follow it was important because it goes to premedit*****".....dropped off the page when I heard Cindy speak. LOL
    - katfish
  4. June 23, 2011 8:18 PM EDT
    The thing I have a problem with here is that Baby Gabriel Johnson is missing too. I have heard very little about him since his story was first reported. It's just like they have dropped that case completely. I did a search for him just recently and could find nothing reported. So for that reason I have believe that all the media coverage and all the mystery behind this case is what has inflamed it so. I also think it was easier for the media to stay all over this case for 3 years because the Florida laws are so leanient and forthcoming with their case information. All that being said, I really don't think it's fair that this case is such a circus and has gotten so much attention when there are other cases very similar out there that we seldom hear about. I imagine the Anthony's wish it wasn't so major. Enough is enough, and some people are really very cruel to them.
    - Sandy
  5. June 24, 2011 1:04 AM EDT
    @ Sandy,
    As for the case of baby Gabriel, the last I heard Elizabeth was to stand trial for parental interference and whatever other charges she faced in AZ. The trial was to start on May 9...the same day as Casey Anthony's trial started. I haven't heard what came of Elizabeth's trial but regardless it doesn't change anything for the baby :`(
    - katfish
  6. June 26, 2011 1:38 PM EDT
    just finished:shattered. you are right in your assumption that david ambushed her, ordering her upstairs, then demanding she'll kneel. ( the police noticed the red knees) then shot her. my god how she must have known her end was coming.

    as to the anthony case. of cause casey is guilty and mom cindy lied, her behavior on the stand showed she was uncomfortable, but did it nevertheless..... waiting for you to write about this story
    - magda odvarka