Published September 22, 2008
ORLANDO, Fla. – Each night, a half dozen protesters plant lawn chairs across the street from the home of missing 3-year-old Caylee Anthony, demanding a confession from her mother and grandparents.
"Baby killer," one woman's sign reads. "My mommy did it!" reads another.
But all they get is silence: The child's family stays quiet night after night, their yard lined with yellow caution tape and "No Trespassing" signs, and a collage of the hazel-eyed child's photographs taped to the front door.
Three months after Caylee disappeared under mysterious circumstances, the protesters have joined the crowd of reporters and gawkers outside the family's suburban Orlando home, hoping to get what police so far have not: a statement that the little girl is dead. They believe the girl's 22-year-old mother, Casey Anthony, killed her and that her grandparents, Cindy and George Anthony, are covering it up.
The protesters taunt the family at all hours, some dressing up in costumes and even recording rock songs about the case. There has been a videotaped scuffle and even 911 calls, but the group is undeterred in its mission.
"It's putting pressure on them," said Cathy Harris, a mother of 10 children who is among the group staking out the home.
Casey Anthony is "hiding something and she needs to be confronted until she tells everybody," said another protester, Richard Ellis Namey. In August, Namey drove a flatbed trailer carrying his son's rock band by the Anthony house as they played "Casey's Song [Wine Sick Mind]," a song they wrote about the missing girl's mother.
"You're the only one to blame ... can't wash away the pain, can't wash away the shame," the song goes.
After two months, there still is not an answer to whether or not the 3-year-old with big eyes and brown bangs is dead or alive. The child's grandmother first called police in July to say Casey Anthony had told her the toddler had been missing for about a month and that her daughter's car smelled like death, although she later said she was mistaken and the smell was old pizza.
Casey Anthony told authorities that she had left her daughter with a baby sitter in June, and that when she returned after work, the two were gone. Anthony said she spent the next month trying to find her daughter on her own and didn't call authorities out of fear.
But investigators said the apartment where the baby sitter supposedly lived had been vacant for months and that Anthony lied about her job.
She was arrested and charged with neglect of a child, making false official statements and obstructing a criminal investigation. She is now under house arrest and facing 13 charges in all, most of them stemming from writing forged checks and illegal use of a friend's bank account.
Todd Black, a spokesman for Anthony's attorney, said Casey insists she left Caylee with a baby sitter. "Her position is, she never did anything to harm her daughter and she is not believing her daughter is dead," Black said.
Now protesters show up at all hours. It is not the typical, supportive vigil so often seen when a child disappears.
A recent early morning scuffle wound up videotaped and aired on national television. Cindy and George Anthony told police they were trying to sleep when they heard a loud bang on their garage door. They found a group of seven or eight protesters at the edge of the driveway who began yelling and screaming profanities.
A woman grabbed George Anthony's shirt, stamped with a picture of his missing granddaughter, and his wife said she got between them to stop a fight. "This can't keep happening," Casey Anthony said in a 911 call.
After the confrontation, the Guardian Angels showed up and began patrolling the well-manicured, middle-class neighborhood.
The neighbors are tired of the spectacle and are asking a court to move the protesters to a vacant lot. They are afraid to let their children outside and some can't sleep at night. The Orange County Sheriff's Office has been called to the Anthony home more than 40 times since Caylee was first reported missing.
"It was a nice, quiet neighborhood," said Bill Fulton, president of the neighborhood association. "It's changed."
In August, bounty hunter Leonard Padilla traveled from California to help bail Casey Anthony out of jail in hopes that they could work together to find her daughter. He said Anthony told him a variation of the story she'd given police, but said when he questioned it, she told him to leave.
Padilla eventually left Orlando, in part, because the situation outside the home had grown too hostile. "I've seen vigils held for missing people," Padilla said. "But I've never seen one go into an accusatory tone of that nature."
The protesters say they will keep coming until the case is solved. Harris recently brought along her teenage daughter, who was dressed up as Casey Anthony with a short bob wig and similar glasses.
"Like what she did was really, really wrong," Yulia Harris, 13, said over the phone. She said she and her mom are "addicted to this case. I don't know how to explain it. It's just wrong."