Five days before her expected release from jail, law enforcement officials in Orlando are assessing potential threats against Casey Anthony, the Florida mother who was acquitted last week of killing her two-year-old daughter.
Ms. Anthony is set to leave the Orange County Jail on Sunday amid continuing anger among many trial watchers who disagree with the jury’s verdict.
“Our intelligence section is assessing the threats,” Sergeant John Allen of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department told members of the media on Tuesday.
Sheriff Jerry Demings said the Anthony case had sparked significant and heated discussion, but nothing so far that would prompt an arrest. “As of today, we don’t have any credible threats to move forward with an active prosecution,” he said.
In an unusual post-acquittal press conference, members of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office answered a wide range of questions about the three-year investigation into the disappearance and death of Ms. Anthony’s daughter, Caylee.
The investigators offered no bombshell disclosures. They said Casey’s father, George Anthony, was never a suspect in Caylee’s death or of involvement in the disposal of her body in a wooded area a quarter-mile from the Anthony home.
They said they did not investigate third-hand “vague” suggestions that Casey was sexually abused by her father, because Ms. Anthony’s lawyer declined to allow her to be interviewed in the county jail.
And they said they were never able to determine who Caylee’s father was.
The investigators said they received 6,165 tips concerning the whereabouts of Caylee in the eight months following the initial missing persons report in July 2008.
Her skeletal remains were discovered on Dec. 11, 2008.
Prosecutors charged Ms. Anthony with first-degree murder, alleging that she used chloroform and duct tape to subdue and suffocate her daughter.
Defense lawyers said Caylee died accidentally in the swimming pool and that Ms. Anthony panicked and hid the body with the help of her father.
After a month-long trial, the jury found Anthony not guilty of all major charges related to Caylee’s death. The panel convicted her on four counts of lying to investigators. She was sentenced to four years in jail, but is being released Sunday based on time she has served in pre-trial detention and good behavior.
The detectives were asked their reaction to the verdict and juror comments that reasonable doubt existed about Ms. Anthony’s role in Caylee’s death.
“I certainly don’t have any doubt,” Sgt. Allen said. “We worked very hard on this case. For me, I don’t have any doubt. I felt our case was solid.”
Lead investigator Yuri Melich said he disagrees with the verdict, but that he accepts it.
“We have to respect our judicial system. We have to respect what a jury is brought to a courtroom to do, whether we agree with it or not,” he said. “I am unhappy with the verdict, but people have to understand this is our judicial system. People have to have faith in it and rely on it.”
Detective Melich added: “I wish there was something I could say that would bring closure. People are going to have to come to closure themselves. There is nothing else we can do.”
Melich was asked whether he might have been able to build a stronger case had police located Caylee’s remains after the first reported discovery of her skull on Aug. 11, rather than four months later.
“I don’t know what we could have found,” he said. “I’d like to think we could have found more.”
Sheriff Demings said his office is coordinating with the county jail to ensure that Anthony’s release on Sunday goes forward without incident. He said if Anthony chooses to live in his jurisdiction she would be entitled to police protection like any other citizen facing a threat. He added, however, “We will not be providing any elaborate security protection for Casey once she leaves [the jail].”
Asked about how much danger Anthony may face once released from jail, Allen urged trial watchers to keep their anger in check.
“A lot of people have strong sentiments about the outcome,” he said. “Nobody has the right to take the law into their own hands.”
He added: “For us, Casey had her day in court, the prosecution presented a case, the defense presented a case, and the jury reached a verdict.”
“I would hope that people would step back and regardless of their feelings not go out and commit another crime,” Allen said.