A decade after Caylee disappeared, the Anthony family still grapples with secrets and lies

By Steve Helling
July 02, 2018 09:57 AM

Ten years ago this month, a seemingly typical Florida family was thrust into the national spotlight in one of the highest-profile crime stories in modern American history.

When 2-year-old Caylee Anthony was reported missing in July 2008, she had already been missing for a month — but her 22-year-old mother, Casey Anthony, hadn’t reported her disappearance to police. Casey’s mother, Cindy Anthony, was actually the one who reported the toddler missing, screaming at a 911 operator that she had found Casey’s white Pontiac and “it smells like there’s been a dead body in the damn car.”

That phone call launched a case full of twists and turns. Casey Anthony was tried and acquitted of killing her own daughter — and the case unearthed shocking secrets about a middle-class American family.

Here are secrets that have emerged about the Anthony family over the years.

Credit: AP Photo/Joshua Replogle

1. Casey Anthony’s Grandmother, Shirley Plesea, Alleged She Was a Habitual Thief

After Casey’s arrest, cops interviewed her grandmother, Shirley Plesea, who alleged that Casey had stolen money from her — writing two checks from her account. Plesea alleged that Casey had stolen $54 to buy a cake and party favors for Caylee’s 2nd birthday, and then wrote another check for $354 for her cell phone bill.

The day before Casey and Caylee vanished for 30 days, Plesea reported the alleged thefts to Cindy — and she believed that Cindy went home to confront Casey.

In her police interview, Plesea was still angry. She suggested it might do Casey some good to get “beat up” in jail. She said her last words to Casey Anthony were, “I love you, but I don’t like you.”

Casey, now 32, was never charged with the alleged theft from her grandmother, although she was later convicted of stealing money from her friend Amy Huizenga.

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George and Cindy AnthonyCredit: A+E
Credit: A+E

2. George Anthony’s Shocking Suicide Attempt

In January 2009, just a month after Caylee’s remains were found, Casey’s father, George, wrote a 5-page suicide note and sent troubling texts to his family.

Police found George Anthony despondent and under the influence of medication and alcohol in a Datyona Beach hotel. His attorney at the time, Brad Conway, told reporters in a press conference that George might have taken his own life had authorities not located him as quickly as they did.

Credit: Justin Coit

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He was involuntarily committed for mental evaluation for 72 hours.

George would later face further scrutiny when defense attorney Jose Baez alleged in court that George had molested Casey for years — an accusation that George denied.

3. Fractured Family Relationships

A decade later, the Anthony family remains split. George has nothing to do with his daughter, saying he never wants to speak with her again.

Casey has also moved on from her father. “She just doesn’t need to have him in her life,” a source close to her tells PEOPLE.

Casey’s brother, Lee, was also accused in court of molesting her — an allegation he denied. Despite the allegation, he initially maintained contact with his sister but he no longer does.

“Lee has frozen her out of his life,” the source says. “And that’s fine by her.”

Lee Anthony got married to longtime girlfriend Mallory Parker in 2012 and the couple had a baby boy the next year. Casey has met her nephew, but no longer has a relationship with him.

Casey has spoken to Cindy sporadically since her release from jail, but was unhappy that Cindy recently alleged that she was mentally ill. While the two women haven’t spoken in months, they still have a macabre memento in common: the ashes of Caylee in matching vials around their necks.

Credit: Orlando Sentinel/Orlando Sentinel/MCT/Getty

4. The Question of Caylee’s Paternity

When Casey gave birth to Caylee in 2006, she wasn’t seeing anyone seriously and she had dated several guys in the months leading up to her pregnancy. She gave conflicting stories about the girl’s paternity.

“I don’t know who the father was,” a source close to the Florida woman told PEOPLE last month. “She doesn’t talk about it. She will never tell anyone. She’ll take that secret to the grave.”

Jesse Grund, Casey’s on-and-off boyfriend at the time of Caylee’s birth, told PEOPLE in 2009 that he thought it was “possible” Caylee was his, but a subsequent DNA test proved he wasn’t the father.

Shortly after Casey’s arrest, cops interviewed Melina Calabrese, a close friend of Casey’s. Calabrese said that Casey maintained for the first 8 months of Caylee’s life that Jesse Grund was the father, and then changed her story.

Casey then described Caylee’s father as a man named Josh, with whom she had had a one-night stand. Calabrese said that Casey said he later died in a car accident in GA shortly after Caylee’s second birthday.

According to the source close to Casey, she doesn’t speak much about Caylee, who would be turning 13 this August. “If she knows who the father is, she’s not telling,” says the source. “She definitely won’t ever say anything publicly. I doubt anyone will ever know.”