Casey Anthony Returns to Her Partying Ways, Lives in 'Denial' About Past, Says Source

"She describes her old life as a 'nightmare,'" says a source close to the notorious Florida woman

Casey Anthony has started going out more, and is trying to put her notorious past behind her, a source close to her tells PEOPLE.

The Florida woman, who was famously acquitted of murder in 2011 in the death of her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, has lived a low-key, uneventful life in the South Florida home of one of the private investigators who worked on her case.

But now, the 33-year-old is resuming a busy social life — and reportedly doesn’t care what people say about her. “She believes she has done her penance,” says a source close to Anthony. “And now she’s partying. She’s dating around, meeting new people, and finally creating a social life.”

“She describes her old life as a ‘nightmare.'” the source continues. “All of it: Caylee’s disappearance, the trial, her relationship with her parents. She lives in denial a lot of the time, pretending that everything that happened, didn’t happen.”

Casey Anthony.

Anthony began dating a man last year, but the relationship has cooled. “She wasn’t ready to settle down,” the source says. “That’s not what she’s looking for now.”

Anthony’s controversial past includes the 2008 disappearance of Caylee, who was missing for 31 days before Anthony reported her missing at the insistence of her mother. After a worldwide search for the missing toddler, the girl’s remains were found in a wooded lot less than one-third of a mile from the Anthony family home.

AP Photo/Joshua Replogle

Anthony’s 2011 trial was a media circus, with at least 40 million people watching at least some of the testimony, according to Nielsen Research. She was acquitted of murder and manslaughter charges on July 5, 2011 — but convicted of four counts of lying to police.

After her controversial acquittal, she was described by a Florida Department of Corrections spokeswoman as “one of the most hated women in America” — a moniker that stuck.

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The source tells PEOPLE that Anthony has a new tactic when someone confronts her about her notorious past. “She’s fighting back,” says the source. “She used to avoid people, but now she calls them ‘psycho haters’ and is defiant about them. She says things like ‘ugh, they just need to get over me.'”

And Anthony hasn’t completely discounted the possibility of having more kids, though in a 2017 interview with the Associated Press, she said she was unlikely to have more children. “If I am blessed enough to have another child — if I’d be dumb enough to bring another kid into this world knowing that there’d be a potential that some little snot-nosed kid would then say something mean to my kid — I don’t think I could live with that,” she said.

But 18 months later, Anthony softened her stance.

“For a long time she was like ‘no way,'” an insider told PEOPLE in October. “But time has changed that and she’s now open to it in a way she hasn’t been before.”

Anthony works as a researcher for her private investigator. She continues to distance herself from her infamous past. In 2012, Anthony and her mother, Cindy, began wearing matching necklaces that contained Caylee’s ashes in small vials. PEOPLE confirmed last year that Anthony no longer wears hers.

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