ORLANDO, Fla. – ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — They wrote from all over. Men and women. All ages and backgrounds. They sent handwritten letters and perfectly typed messages, pictures and holiday cards, money and tender words of encouragement. All to a stranger charged with killing her daughter.
In the latest and perhaps most telling sign of how the case against Casey Anthony has captivated so many around the world, thousands of letters addressed to the inmate include marriage proposals, Biblical quotes and bizarre suggestions. Prosecutors released about 5,000 pages of letters on Friday.
"When I have a bad day, I see your smile, and it changes everything," said a February 2009 letter signed by Julie Reynolds in Lexington, Ky.
Anthony has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and has said a baby sitter kidnapped her daughter, Caylee. The toddler's remains were found in December 2008, about six months after the mother said she last saw her alive. Anthony's trial is scheduled to start next May.
In letters to Anthony, people wrote about their experiences with depression, jail, relationships and religion. Many wrote multiple times with intimate detail of their lives.
Some asked for photos. Others sent childish drawings and smiley faces. One woman sprayed her letter with perfume. More than one man offered to "wipe the tears" off Anthony's cheeks.
The missives underscore just how notorious Anthony has become. The case — chock full of photos of Anthony partying in Orlando-area clubs and adorable pictures of her daughter — is a staple on cable TV talk shows.
The Associated Press attempted to verify the identities of the senders quoted in this story by leaving phone messages for all but three, including an inmate and two whose listings couldn't be found.
"I promise you that you will always have me to 'comfort' you. My friendship is unconditional, I will be on your side no matter what. But I do not believe you are responsible. I hope you are proven innocent, because I hate thinking of you all by yourself in jail," wrote a letter signed by Mark LeBlanc of Calgary, Canada. At the bottom it read: "P.S. I send you a BIG HUG to comfort you."
Men and women made passes at Anthony, referring to her as "sexy" and "princess" and "juicy." Some popped the ultimate question.
"MARRY ME CASEY MARIE. MARRY ME. I will do whatever you need me to do to show you I'm real," read a message signed by Alfred Rego of Dartmouth, Mass.
Some even passed along a photo.
"I think I'm one hot single dad. Don't you?" asked a letter signed by Rob Crespo of Melbourne, Fla.
A letter signed by Carol Grant of Utah was one of the few that did not support Anthony.
The message read, "YOU ARE A MONSTER. I hope you rot in hell!!"
Most were kind, though.
"The gay community is truly with you," read a letter signed by Kamari Lewis in Orlando, Fla.
Mailroom staff open and inspect all mail for contraband, Orange County jail spokesman James Merkison said. He could not say if Anthony read the letters or wrote back because it's an ongoing case.
The prosecutor's office declined to say if any letters were withheld from the batch released Friday.
Dr. Lois Nightingale, a clinical psychologist in Yorba Linda, Ca., said that people could be writing to Anthony for a variety of reasons.
"Does she represent the cold, withholding mother that they are trying to get approval from, or does she represent the damsel in distress, that if they save her, she will appreciate them and never leave them forever? Or does she represent a misunderstood person?" Nightingale said.
Because Anthony has said little publicly, people can project all sorts of character traits on her, Nightingale said. Sometimes, people who write to inmates also perceive a sense of power if they befriend, or fall in love, with that inmate.
"You're really important if you have found a way to tame or calm down this person who is really dangerous to other people," Nightingale said.
Some, like John Anderson — a man serving 10 years behind bars in Michigan — had an admittedly difficult time articulating why they put pen to paper.
Wrote Anderson: "I feel good writing you; why, I have no idea."
Lush reported from Tampa, Fla.