ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Casey Anthony walked out of jail a free woman under heavy guard early Sunday, facing shouts of “baby killer” from a heckling crowd less than two weeks after she was found not guilty of murder in the death of her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee.
The 25-year-old woman, whose acquittal shocked and enraged many around the country who had been following the case for months, left an Orlando area jail at 12:14 a.m., swiftly boarded an SUV and rode out of public view.
A crowd of more than 100 people surged against the orange plastic police barricades as the vehicle left. Some yelled “You suck!” Mounted patrolmen and police cruisers blocked the street outside the jail so Anthony’s vehicle could drive onto a nearby highway ramp unobstructed.
“A baby killer was just set free!” shouted Bree Thornton, 39.
News helicopters followed Anthony to a covered parking garage at an Orlando office building where one of her attorneys has offices, but reporters then lost track of her.
A short time later, amid the crush of media attention, there was police activity as two vehicles pulled up to a twin-engine private jet at Orlando Executive Airport, but no one saw Anthony get out and onto the plane. That plane took off shortly after 1 a.m. Sunday for Ohio, the home state of Anthony’s parents. But an official there said that aircraft was only carrying golfers back from a Florida vacation.
Anthony, it seemed, had vanished into the night.
Anger over Anthony’s July 5 acquittal has spilled onto social media sites and elsewhere. Her legal team said on Friday it had received an emailed death threat with a manipulated photo showing their 25-year-old client with a bullet hole in her forehead.
Caylee Anthony’s remains were found in December 2008 near the home Casey Anthony shared with her parents. Prosecutors alleged that Anthony suffocated her daughter with duct tape because motherhood interfered with her desire for a carefree life, but her lawyers said the girl drowned in an accident that snowballed out of control.
Some of the jurors who acquitted Anthony said they believe she bears some responsibility for her daughter’s death but that prosecutors failed to prove that she murdered the child.
Anthony had remained in jail to finish a four-year sentence for telling investigators several lies, including an early claim that Caylee was kidnapped by a nonexistent nanny. With credit for the nearly three years she’d spent in jail since August 2008 and good behavior, she had only days remaining when she was sentenced July 7.
Anthony left jail wearing a hot pink Polo T-shirt, blue jeans and sneakers, with her attorney Jose Baez at her side. She was given $537.68 in cash from her jail account to begin her new life.
Her hair in a bun, a somber-looking Anthony quietly said “thank you” to a deputy sheriff waiting to escort her outside, and then strode with Baez to the vehicle as two deputies armed with semi-automatic rifles walked behind. Baez held the back door, she climbed in and the SUV drove off amid camera flashes.
Anthony had a handful of supporters in the crowd.
“I’m for Casey,” said Kizzy Smith, of Orlando. “She was proven innocent. At the end of the day, Caylee is at peace. We’re the ones who are in an uproar.”
One man carried a “Casey, will you marry me” sign. But her backers — at the jail and across the country — appeared to be vastly outnumbered by her critics.
“She is safer in jail than she is out here,” said Mike Quiroz, who drove from Miami to spend his 22nd birthday outside the jail. “She better watch her butt. She is known all over the world.”
Lamar Jordan said he felt pain in the pit of his stomach when he saw Anthony walking free.
“The fact that she is being let out, the fact that it is her child and she didn’t say what happened, made me sick,” Jordan said.
Baez, in a brief statement to reporters, signaled a new chapter was opening in the Casey Anthony case.
“It is my hope that Casey Anthony can receive the counseling and treatment she needs to move forward with the rest of her life,” Baez said.
Certainly, she still faces anger and ire around the nation that brought tight security for Sunday’s release.
“This release had an unusual amount of security so, therefore, in that sense, it would not be a normal release,” Orange County Jail spokesman Allen Moore said. “We have made every effort to not provide any special treatment for her. She’s been treated like every other inmate.”
Moore said there were no known threats received at the jail. Yet officials had a number of contingency plans in place, including plans in case shots were fired as she was being released.
Now that she is free, it’s not clear where Anthony will stay or what she will do next.
Her relationship with her parents, George and Cindy, has been strained since defense attorneys accused George Anthony of molesting Casey when she was young. Baez argued during trial that the alleged abuse resulted in psychological issues that caused her to lie and act without apparent remorse after Caylee’s death.
Defense attorneys also said George Anthony made Caylee’s death look like a homicide after the girl accidentally drowned in the family pool. But defense attorneys never called witnesses to support their claims.
George Anthony has adamantly denied covering up his granddaughter’s death or molesting Casey Anthony when she was a child.