The Most Bizarre Things About The Casey Anthony Case

This article contains discussion of murder and child sex abuse.

When two-year-old Caylee Anthony was reported missing in 2008, the story immediately garnered national attention. Not only was the toddler absolutely adorable, but the story of her disappearance had all of the components of a viral, gripping true crime saga, thanks in no small part to the version of events laid out by her mother, then-22-year-old Casey Anthony, who had known her daughter was missing for a month before the authorities were even notified. Over the course of the investigation, it became clear that several claims Anthony made to police were false, and authorities became increasingly suspicious of the young mother.

As the details of the case continued to unfold, it became clear that Caylee wasn't just missing, but dead. Although Caylee's body wasn't discovered until December 2008, she was assumed dead two months earlier, in October, Anthony was indicted by a grand jury on several charges related to her daughter's death and disappearance, including first degree murder. In spite of what appeared to be an overwhelming public sentiment that she was guilty, Anthony was eventually acquitted in July 2011. Many were shocked by the outcome of the trial, but surprising as the verdict was, it was far from the only strange thing about the case. Here are the most bizarre details from the Casey Anthony case.

Caylee Anthony was missing for a month before any crime was reported

Usually, when a child goes missing, their parents are quick to ask for help. In fact, thanks to TV procedurals like "Law & Order: SVU" and "Criminal Minds," we're used to the (totally false) trope of panicked parents being turned away by officials who say they need to wait longer to file a missing persons report. This is all to say that the Casey Anthony case was bizarre from its very first moments. Caylee Anthony, who was just two years old, had been missing for 31 days before police were notified. Caylee was last seen on June 16, 2008. On July 15, her grandmother, Cindy Anthony, reported her missing after confronting her daughter, Casey, about the toddler's whereabouts. 

After keeping her daughter's disappearance a secret for a month, Casey admitted to her mother that Caylee was missing. Casey claimed that Caylee had been kidnapped and that she had been searching for her daughter on her own instead of reporting the crime to the police. "I've found out that my granddaughter has been taken — she has been missing for a month. Her mother had finally admitted that she had been missing," Cindy said during a 911 call, later adding that Casey had "admitted to me that she's been trying to find her by herself. There is something wrong." 

Casey Anthony's own mother called the police to have her arrested

Not only was Casey Anthony's mother, Cindy Anthony (above), the one who first reported Caylee missing, but she seemed immediately suspicious of her daughter's involvement in the incident. When Cindy called 911 to report that her granddaughter was missing, she also requested that police come arrest Casey — but not for Caylee's disappearance. During her initial calls to 911 on July 15, 2008, Cindy told the operator, "I have someone here who I need to be arrested in my home." When asked who she needed arrested and for what reason, Cindy said, "my daughter" and "for stealing an auto and stealing money." 

In a subsequent 911 call later the same day, Cindy described a horrific odor coming from the car that she likened to "a dead body" — a claim she later backtracked on at Casey's trial. "My daughter has been missing for a month and I just found her today. But I can't find my granddaughter," Cindy explained, adding, "She just admitted to me that she's been trying to find her by herself. 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." Per the Orlando Sentinel, Cindy later changed the story of the smell when she "famously referred to 'a bag of pizza for like 12 days in the back of the car.'" 

The bizarre lie Casey Anthony told about 'Zanny the nanny'

Early in the investigation, Casey Anthony insisted that Caylee was with her nanny, who she identified as Zenaida Fernandez Gonzalez (aka "Zanny the nanny") and that the nanny had kidnapped Caylee, according to ABC News. This was the story she apparently told her mother, Cindy Anthony, on July 15, 2008, and she reiterated it to police, telling detectives on the case (per Reuters) that "Zanny" had kidnapped Caylee on June 9. Asked why she hadn't contacted authorities sooner, Casey cited "fear of the unknown," and claimed, "I think part of me was naive enough to think I could handle [Caylee's disappearance] myself, which I obviously couldn't." 

During the course of the investigation, police actually found a woman by the name of Zenaida Gonzalez, but she insisted she had never met Casey or Caylee, leading detectives to conclude that "Zanny the Nanny" was a fictional character made up by Casey. In 2009, the Orlando Sentinel reported that the real Gonzalez sued Casey for defamation for implicating her in the crime, saying that her reputation had been willfully damaged, but a judge eventually threw out the case. "There is nothing in the statement...to support (Fernandez-Gonzalez's) allegations that (Anthony) intended to portray (the nanny) as a child kidnapper and potentially a child killer," the judge wrote according to documents obtained by WESH.

Jeff Hopkins was another oddly fabricated person in Casey Anthony's web of lies

Zanny the nanny was not the only fictional person invented by Casey Anthony. In another intricate lie originally told to her mother, Cindy Anthony, Casey claimed to have had a relationship with a man named Jeff Hopkins, who she identified as the person who introduced her to Zanny the nanny. ABC News recapped how Casey reportedly described Jeff as a "wealthy" guy "who worked at Nickelodeon" and "had a son named Zachary who was the same age as Caylee's." The outlet also reported that, at trial, Cindy testified that she had "found a picture of a man and a boy on her daughter's cellphone identified as Hopkins and filed under 'boyfriend.'" Casey had also apparently said that Jeff's mom (who she called Jules) had cancer and had told her mother that Jeff and Jules would be coming to meet her family around Christmas, only to abruptly cancel "at the last minute." Casey even used the fictional Jules as an alibi for the time of Caylee's disappearance, claiming she and her then-missing daughter were in Jacksonville, attending a "surprise wedding" for Jules. 

Like Zenaida Fernandez Gonzalez, there really was a person named Jeff Hopkins in real life, but, also like Gonzalez, the story Casey told about him was completely fabricated. The real Hopkins was an old middle school classmate of Casey's, and at trial, he testified that he had never dated her and did not introduce her to Gonzalez. 

Casey Anthony led police on a lie-filled tour of her fake workplace

Making up her daughter's nanny/alleged kidnapper wasn't the only lie Casey Anthony told police — far from it. As ABC News pointed out in its rundown of her "Top Ten Lies," during the investigation, several whoppers told by Casey Anthony actually came to light, including a years-long lie about her employment.

Perhaps the strangest thing about the employment lie is that it didn't seem to be specifically invented in relation to Caylee's disappearance. For years, Casey had been telling her parents that she worked at Universal Studios as an event planner. She maintained the lie, even to police, early in the investigation. When detectives insisted that Casey take them to her office, she went so far as to walk officers around a building on the Universal lot for a while before eventually giving up and admitted that she had been fired from her job at Universal in 2006 and had pretended to continue working there ever since.

This stunning moment in the investigation was apparently something of a final straw for the detectives, who then directly confronted Casey about her blatant lies. "If you continue down this path and continue lying," one detective warned her, "I can tell you that when this snowball gets to the bottom of the hill, the only person that's going to get hurt then is you."

The curious connection with the heart-shaped stickers

While a lot of the strangest details from the Casey Anthony case sprang from her lies and apparent attempted cover up following Caylee's disappearance, there were also strange things about Caylee's death. One particularly disturbing claim involves the duct tape that was on Caylee's skull when her remains were discovered. According to testimony from an FBI forensics expert — latent print analyst Elizabeth Fontaine — the outline of a heart-shaped sticker was found on the duct tape. The outline reportedly matched a sticker that was found near Caylee's body and was "similar to a roll of heart-shaped stickers that police found in Casey Anthony's bedroom," according to a report from ABC News

Forensics experts weren't able to prove that the sticker had been on the duct tape, but combined with the roll of stickers found in Casey's bedroom, prosecutors said it suggested a possible connection between Casey and the crime. It would also have gone a long way toward proving the prosecution's theory of the case, which was that Casey had killed Caylee by placing the duct tape over nose and mouth to suffocate her (via The Christian Science Monitor). 

George Anthony became the scapegoat for Casey Anthony's defense

Throughout the investigation and leading up to the trial, plenty of surprising details emerged about the case that authorities were building against Casey Anthony. At trial, however, Casey's legal team, led by Jose Baez, mounted a defense that included several shocking claims. First, the core of the defense's story was that Caylee Anthony had not been murdered at all, but had accidentally drowned in the Anthony family pool, per ABC News' recap of the defense's opening statement. Casey's lawyers also argued that it had actually been her father, George Anthony, who allegedly aided in the "disposal" of his granddaughter's body to cover up the death. 

According to a WFTV 9 ABC report, Baez claimed at trial that George discovered Caylee's body and said to Casey, "Look what you've done! Your mother will never forgive you! And you will go to jail for child neglect for the rest of your freaking life!" Baez also claimed that Casey's behavior after Caylee's death was a coping mechanism developed after years of abuse at the hands of her father. "Casey did what she's been doing all her life, or most of it, hiding her pain," he said, per WFTV 9 ABC. "She went back to that deep, dark place called denial to pretend as if nothing was wrong." George Anthony vehemently denied all of the claims made about by the defense during an emotional day of testimony in court.

If you or someone you know may be the victim of child abuse, please contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or contact their live chat services.

Casey Anthony appeared in disguise for a civil case deposition after her acquittal

In October 2011, just three months after she was found not guilty of her two-year-old daughter Caylee's murder, Casey Anthony was in the news for legal issues again, this time tied to a civil suit. Zenaida Gonzalez — the woman whose name Casey identified as that of Caylee's supposed kidnapper, "Zanny the Nanny" — sued Casey for defamation and sought compensatory and punitive damages for the damage to her reputation. Zenaida, who turned out to have no connection to Casey or Caylee, actually filed her suit in 2008 when Casey initially made her claims, which resulted in Gonzalez being questioned by police. "It has been horrible," Zenaida told WKMG's Click Orlando in 2008. "I haven't been able to get a job and haven't been able to do much of anything because everybody is judging me by my name."

Casey's appearance during her deposition (which was conducted via videoconference from "an undisclosed location") made headlines. CBS News reported that she appeared on camera "disguised in sunglasses and a baseball cap" and gave few answers during the 45-minute deposition. According to Gonzalez's attorney, John Morgan, Anthony, who invoked her 5th-amendment rights in response to most of his questions, "did not want to be there" and was "clearly annoyed, but composed, courteous, not rude and not looking at me."

Did an Orlando church let Casey Anthony hid out in it?

After her surprising acquittal, Casey Anthony disappeared from the public eye. In 2012, however, it came out that Casey had been given sanctuary by a local church pastor near Orlando, a fact that again surprised many who expected her to have left Florida. That January, the Daily Beast reported that Casey was staying at Cross Church in Palm City, where lead Pastor Steve Camp was giving her refuge. The news sent shockwaves through the community and, when local media reported the church's address, residents took to the streets with signs that read "Hide your Kids" in protest of Casey taking up residence in the area. Casey supporters also descended on the area to counter the protestors, driving by and yelling, "Casey is innocent," according to a report from WFTV 9 ABC

Michael Wedgwood, a resident of the area, was quoted in WFTV's coverage, saying he had seen Casey leaving the property with a police escort just three hours after the Daily Beast report was published. Wedgwood also said rumors were going around about the counseling Anthony was reportedly receiving from the church, as well as her alleged involvement in church programs, and that local parents were outraged to learn that one of the programs she was rumored to be involved in was next to an elementary school. 

Casey Anthony's attorney was accused of sexual misconduct with her

Five years after Casey Anthony's criminal trial, her name was in the news again following shocking and disturbing allegations of sexual misconduct on the part of her lead attorney, Jose Baez. In 2016, affidavits that Dominic Casey, a private investigator who had worked with Casey Anthony's defense team, were made public. The documents included claims that Baez had admitted to him that his client had confessed to Caylee's murder and allegations that Baez and Anthony had a sexual relationship and that she had paid for her defense with sexual favors. "Casey told me she had to do what Jose said because she had no money for her defense," the PI wrote in his affidavit, according to USA Today

Baez vehemently denied the claims. "I unequivocally and categorically deny exchanging sex for my legal services with Ms. Anthony. I further unequivocally and categorically deny having any sexual relationship with Ms. Anthony whatsoever," he wrote in a statement to People. "I have always conducted my practice consistent with the high ethical standards required of members of the Florida Bar. My representation of Ms. Anthony was no exception. Legal action is forthcoming." 

Need a private investigator? Casey Anthony's on the case

It's hard to imagine what what Casey Anthony's life is like today, particularly in terms of the kind of career someone as noteworthy and controversial as her might be able to pursue, but the world doesn't have to guess in this case. In 2017, the Associated Press reported that Anthony was in South Florida, working for private investigator Patrick McKenna (with whom she also lived at the time) doing "online social media searches and other investigative work." McKenna is a veteran investigator who served as the lead for not only Anthony's defense team, but also that of OJ Simpson in his murder trial. In her rare interview with the AP, Anthony made it clear that she was passionate about her investigative work. "I love the fact that I have a unique perspective and I get a chance to do for other people what so many others have done for me," she said. 

Anthony also shared with the AP her goal of obtaining a private investigator's license and working in criminal defense. Just three years later, she appeared to take a big step toward that goal. According to the Associated Press (via ABC News), Anthony started her own PI firm, an LLC called Case Research & Consulting Services in 2020. According to the paperwork, which was filed with the Florida Division of Corporations in mid-December 2020, the company's "effective date" was January 1, 2021, and the business address listed was none other than that of Anthony's apparent live-in mentor, Patrick McKenna. 

Casey Anthony may have reconciled with her father

At her trial, Casey Anthony's defense team levied a number of shocking allegations against her father, George Anthony, including claims that he disposed of two-year-old Caylee's body after she accidentally drowned and that he had abused Casey for years. George Anthony vehemently denied all of the claims and, following Casey's acquittal, the father and daughter's relationship was reportedly nonexistent. Their estrangement went on for years, but in 2018, George was injured in a car accident that People described as "near-fatal." 

In a 2019 interview with Dr. Oz, George revealed that Casey had reached out to see how he was after his accident and that he finally felt ready to reconcile with her. "Yeah, I would," he said (per People). "I mean honestly I would. I would just like to tell her I'm sorry. You know that I forgive her. I forgive her and that's hard for me to say, but you know what, I need to be forgiven by her, my son and other family members or friends that I care so much about. Forgive me for what I've done. To all of our lives." 

If you or someone you know may be the victim of child abuse, please contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or contact their live chat services.