With 3-year-old Caylee Anthony missing for more than two months, her mother Casey is being bailed out of jail for $500,000 by Sacramento bounty hunter Leonard Padilla.
Padilla says his motive is to use his many years of experience tracking down criminals to learn enough from Casey to find the little girl.
It isn't surprising that Padilla's quest has captured the imagination of the media. His name is now known from coast-to-coast. The drama of a black-hatted, toothpick chewing cowboy riding into town to break open a case that police haven't been able to crack sounds like a made-for-TV movie, or maybe the launch of a reality TV series.
The trouble is that the drama now unfolding according to Padilla's script is encroaching on a very real investigation. And it feels like entertainment eclipsing truth, clouding the search for Caylee, rather than focusing it.
This is a particularly unwelcome event in the context of searching for a little girl who we pray could still be alive. Because successful investigations require an obsessive commitment to separating fact from fantasy, in a quest for the truth. And that pure motivation can be contaminated by a desire to court an audience and maintain their interest.
As a forensic psychiatrist I worry that Casey Anthony will be less motivated to tell authorities what she really knows about the disappearance of her toddler once she is free to take center stage outside a prison, in the public eye. For someone who has the ability to spin tall tales in service to self-preservation, perhaps without feeling guilt, the making of a 24-hour-a-day TV drama out of a real tragedy could free her to fictionalize even more. It could embolden her to conclude that nothing has genuine meaning in the context of this story-not the suffering of her daughter, nor the call of her own conscience.
Sometimes the truth emerges because the world seems to be dark and unyielding without it, as it must have seemed to Anthony before Padilla rode into town. Now, the days can speed by like a DVD spinning, projecting images that have little to do with reality, other than providing a refuge from it.
Dr. Keith Ablow is a psychiatry correspondent for FOX News Channel and a New York Times bestselling author. His newest book, "Living the Truth: Transform Your Life through the Power of Insight and Honesty" has launched a new self-help movement. Check out Dr. Ablow's website at livingthetruth.com.