(TAMPA, Fla.) — In her first public appearance since her murder acquittal in 2011, the unemployed Casey Anthony said that she lives, “free off of the kindness of others,” along with donations of cash and gift cards from strangers.
Even though she’s been called the most hated woman in America, Anthony has a fervent group of supporters who use assumed names and brush off death threats in order to stand by her side.
“I think Casey made some mistakes and I think the picture that we see is a caricature of who she really is,” a supporter who goes by Melissa told ABC News. “I don’t think we see the whole Casey in what has been presented. There’s a hard road ahead of her, but she has a lot of support.”
Melissa asked that her real name not be used in order to protect herself and her family. She said she is a college-educated, married mom in her 40s who lives on the West Coast.
Melissa said that she has never personally given money to support Anthony, but has seen comments on the website she helps run, CaseyAnthonyIsInnocent.com, from others who, “have sent support to the attorneys.”
“From what I gather, she has a strong support system after the trial,” she said. “I think the lawyers are personally invested in Casey and want to see her succeed, and therefore there is a support system of people that do help her.”
While Anthony was in jail, she received checks in the mail from sympathetic supporters so that she could spend money on snacks and cosmetics.
When asked if Anthony or her team have been in touch with the website, Melissa said, “Yes, we have been thanked…I can’t really speak to whether we’ve talked to her personally.”
Melissa said her initial belief was that Anthony was guilty, but after watching the trial, she came to a different conclusion.
“I didn’t buy the evidence…I came to the conclusion that the verdict was correct,” she said. “I think that the jury got it right.”
Melissa thought Anthony was “vilified” in the public and found other Anthony supporters online. They began to communicate on Facebook and Skype. Eventually, the website CaseyAnthonyIsInnocent.com was created. It is one of several websites and many Facebook pages on which people sympathize with, and even admire, Anthony.
“It was to give people a safe place to go and support Casey,” Melissa said. “Some of the comments are from the men who may think she’s cute, but it goes beyond that.”
Melissa said the website frequently receives death threats, some so serious that organizers have reported them to police.
“We can’t control some of the comments where it may seem that someone has a crush on Casey, but we are not a fan site,” she said. “We are a support site with the goal of counteracting the court of public opinion and supporting her through the justice system and thereafter.”
Anthony, 26, went into hiding in 2011 after she was acquitted of murdering her toddler, Caylee. She received a barrage of threats. Aside from a few stray photos, Anthony has succeeded in staying out of sight.
Anthony has been unemployed for the past four years and filed for bankruptcy in January. She’s almost $800,000 in debt and has less than $1,100 worth of assets, according to her bankruptcy filing.
“I don’t pay rent. I don’t pay utilities,” Anthony said in bankruptcy court in Tampa, Fla., on Monday. “I guess you could say I’m living free off the kindness of others.”
She said at the meeting that she lives with friends. When a federal bankruptcy trustee asked her if she bought her own food, she said, “I try to contribute when I can.”
Anthony’s lawyers have said since she was acquitted that she has not received any offers for book, movie or television deals. She repeated that at the bankruptcy hearing.
Melissa used to be afraid to support Anthony publicly, but said she has become more vocal about her sympathy. She said her husband and parents are aware of her “hobby” and support her. She spends several hours a day working on the Anthony website and has also been kept busy by a second website she is helping with, JodiAriasIsInnocent.com.
“My reason for helping with it is because I do think women in high-profile trials are misportrayed [sic] in the media, and it drives me crazy to see them calling someone a sociopath by the way their eyes look and diagnosing people they haven’t ever met,” she said. “I have a lot of passion in what I do.”
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