A nagging sense of unresolved justice marked the crime landscape of 2011, with stunning reversals and cases that stubbornly remain open dominating headlines.
There was an uproar when Casey Anthony was cleared of murder charges in Florida, but a more muted reaction when Amanda Knox had her murder conviction overturned by an Italian court.
Despite seismic developments in the case, Susan Powell’s fate remains a mystery. So, too, is the case of the one-time Penthouse model whose body washed up on the beach. And while authorities in Aruba believe they have their prime suspect, the disappearance of Robyn Gardner still remains very much an open case in a year full of gripping crime stories:
1. Casey Anthony
It was a riveting trial played out on live television with an ending that left many in shock and anger. Casey Anthony was acquitted in July of charges she murdered her 2-year-old daughter Caylee. Jurors later called Anthony – who worked as a “shot girl” in a bar and who repeatedly lied to police – a bad person, but said the prosecution failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. Now estranged from her parents, Anthony has gone into therapy and hiding.
2. Amanda Knox
When an Italian court rendered its verdict four years ago, American student Amanda Knox faced a grim a future: spending the next 26 years in a foreign prison, convicted of murdering her British roommate in a case that scandalized Europe with stories of sex and drugs. But in October an appeals court overturned the verdict and released Knox and her ex-boyfriend after finding serious problems with the DNA evidence. In an emotional homecoming, a tired but grateful Knox returned to Seattle, thanking friends and family “for being there for me.” But for the family of the victim, closure – both legal and emotional – is not to be found.
3. Susan Powell Family Drama
Near two years after Utah mom Susan Powell disappeared, the case seemed to have hit a dead end. Then in August police announced the first of what would be two highly publicized searches for her remains, in the deserts of Nevada and Utah. The case took another twist when Susan’s father-in-law, Steven Powell, claimed that Susan had flirted with him, while a friend said Steven was “obsessed” with Susan. After a search of Steven’s house, police arrested him for investigation of possessing child pornography. Despite the convulsions in the case, police appeared no closer to finding out what happened to Susan.
4. Penthouse Model’s Death
The body, a slim woman with a broken back and neck, washed up last January on a restricted beach on a Marine base north of San Diego. Months later, investigators announced that the victim was Anneka Vasta, better known as Anneka Di Lorenzo, the 1975 Penthouse Pet of the Year and a B-movie actress who once was involved with publisher Bob Guccione in a scandalous sexual harassment case. Despite a recent history of mental illness – and signs of blood in a car on a bluff near the beach – investigators say they still don’t know whether Vasta died of a suicide or murder.
5. Robyn Gardner
The Caribbean island nation of Aruba had already been the setting of a terrible case: the disappearance and presumed murder of teenager Natalee Holloway. Nearly six years later, history repeated itself. Robyn Gardner, a 35-year-old Maryland woman, vanished in August. As with Holloway, police focused on a man – in this case, Gardner’s traveling companion, Gary Giordano, whose story is allegedly full of holes. Giordano has been detained without charges, and the case remains open.