Casey Anthony (R) reacts to being found not guilty on murder charges at the Orange County Courthouse on July 5, 2011 in Orlando, Florida.
Pool—Getty Images
By Melissa Chan
July 5, 2016

Casey Anthony, the Florida mother who was vilified by the nation after being accused of killing her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, was acquitted in the girl’s murder five years ago today.

The twists and turns of the ensuing six-week trial had captivated the country. Here are five things to remember about the saga:

The tragedy
Caylee was first reported missing in July 2008 by Anthony’s mother Cindy, who told a dispatcher that the little girl had been gone for a month. “There is something wrong. I found my daughter’s car today [and] it smells like there’s been a dead body in the damn car,” she says, according to a 911 call. After a six-month search, the toddler’s decomposed body with duct tape on her skull was found in the woods near the Anthony home. Evidence showed that chloroform was found in the trunk of Anthony’s car.

The prosecution
Anthony was indicted on seven counts, including first-degree murder. The prosecution argued that Casey knocked out her daughter using chloroform, duct-taped her mouth shut, and tossed her body in the woods. Prosecutors, who sought the death penalty, said Anthony had recently Google searched phrases including “neck breaking” and “how to make chloroform.”

The defense
Anthony’s defense lawyer Jose Baez argued that Caylee accidentally drowned in the family’s backyard pool on June 16, 2008. Baez said Casey didn’t reveal the truth because she was scared of her father George Anthony, who, Baez alleged, had begun molesting Casey when she was 8. George Anthony had denied the accusation.

Read More: Timeline: The Casey Anthony Saga, Spanning Three Years, Comes to a Close

The sentence
Casey Anthony wept in court on July 5, 2011 after a dozen jurors found her not guilty of murdering her daughter. However, Anthony, then 25, was found guilty of four counts of providing false information to investigators. (Anthony had falsely told investigators that she had been working at Universal Studios and that she had been leaving her daughter in the care of a nanny named Zenaida Gonzalez.)

Anthony was sentenced to one year in the Orange County Jail and a $1,000 fine for each count. Judge Belvin Perry, Jr., who had presided over her case for more than a year, set her release date for July 17 after consulting with Casey’s lawyers to calculate her credit for time already served and good behavior.

The aftermath
Anthony has for the most part widely avoided the public spotlight since the acquittal prompted public vitriol and death threats.

Retired Judge Belvin Perry, Jr. reflected on the case in a new interview on the five-year anniversary, telling Bay News 9 that many still keep little Caylee in their thoughts.

“The saga of Casey Anthony continues, even after five years,” he said. “No one can ever forget that little girl, with that $1 million smile. With that look, that was like simple magnetism. I don’t think anybody will ever forget about (Caylee). The whole case was about justice for Caylee.”

“The system worked,” he added. “Was it the outcome that most people wanted? No, but the system worked.”


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