I don’t get spooked easily.
But I’m spooked right now.
Not because of anything imminent.
But because I’m really starting to understand what kind of danger I may have been in.
When the police first told me how lucky I was to make it out of my first marriage alive, I brushed off their concern. After all, they were talking about the man who had cared for me when I was sick and would gently slide my glasses off my sleeping face each night. How could he have tried to kill me?
Yet even though it seemed unfathomable and he had made no direct threats, I found that I was frightened of him. The reports from his other wife that she found evidence that he was planning her death didn’t help to calm my nerves. And the police took his actions and my fears seriously, setting up nightly patrols during those first few uncertain weeks.
Even then, I didn’t really take it seriously.
But now I do.
And my change in perspective came from the most unlikely of places – a podcast about Casey Anthony, the Florida woman who was accused of killing her young daughter in 2008.
At the time of the trial, I remained largely ignorant of the intense publicity. I knew only the basic outline – she accused the babysitter of kidnapping her child and the child’s body was found some time later.
But listening to the podcast?
In many ways, I felt like I knew her.
Because even though she was a twenty-something mother accused of murder and my ex-husband was a thirty-two-year-old man who committed bigamy and fraud, they were operating out of the same playbook.
And the more I heard about her lies and realized the parallels with my ex’s, the more spooked I became. A feeling of looking down and suddenly realizing that you’re precariously perched high above the security of the ground.
(A quick note here before I delve into the details: As stated, I never followed this case while it was active. Even now, I have not referenced any sources apart from this podcast. There may be information that was discussed in the show that is incorrect or incomplete. Frankly, I’m spooked enough from these details; I have no interest in digging any deeper. Also, I have my gut feelings about Casey’s involvement in Caylee’s death, but I’m not going to speculate about that here. I’m more interested in her multiple lies and her reactions (or non-reactions) to her daughter’s disappearance and then confirmed death.)
In many ways, I’m still too close to my ex’s lies to be able to see them all clearly. They are so interwoven with my own memories of what I believed at the time, that it is difficult for me to be objective. In listening to the description of Casey Anthony, I was able to see these behaviors in a more impersonal and detached manner.
And realizing these similarities makes me truly wonder what my ex was (is?) capable of.
Casey Anthony’s daughter was missing for 39 days. For most of that, Casey kept insisting that everything was fine. Whenever her mother asked about Caylee, she was told that she was an amusement park or with the nanny. Any concern was brushed off with an, “How can you be so ignorant as to think that?” attitude.
My ex had been living a double life for years at the time he left and the financial deceptions that he carried out were beginning to reach critical mass. It got to a point where he was no longer able to shield me from everything (although he gave it a damn good try, including cutting the phone line so that I couldn’t receive calls from creditors). Whenever I would see something that would give me pause, his reaction would always be, “How could you be so ignorant or distrustful to question that?”
Real-Life People Becoming Fictitious Characters
When Casey could no longer deny that her daughter was missing, she then claimed that she was kidnapped by the babysitter. She described to the police how she met this woman through a mutual acquaintance and that she used to babysit his child. This man was real, but he not only didn’t know this babysitter. He had no children.
My ex used a friend in a similar manner. He claimed (to both his other wife and the police) that he co-owned this friend’s business and had a great deal of money coming to him as part of the agreement. This friend (although I’m not sure that’s the correct term) was real. The business was real. But everything else my ex claimed was simply fabricated to connect the dots of lies he had spread.
If They Don’t Exist, Create Them
Sometimes the character needed for the story you’re telling doesn’t exist. When that happened to Casey Anthony, she simply invented the person. For the month that her daughter was missing, she consistently made the claim that her child was with the babysitter. But there was no babysitter. After she accused the nanny of stealing her daughter, she was forced to bring more detail to this imagined character. And she did, even describing the details of the woman’s apartment (which was a merely a vacant unit when the police investigated).
When my ex met his soon-to-be other wife, he told her he was divorced and that his ex-wife was remarried. This fabricated “second husband” of mine remained a mere sketch until he tried using the same story with the police. And they pushed for details. So my “husband” and I had been married a year, were on friendly terms with my ex (in fact, apparently he even attended our imaginary wedding), lived in Snellville and had three dogs. Oh, and my husband apparently worked as a chiropractor. Strangely, I appreciate the fact that if my ex was going to invent a life for me, at least it seems he made up a good one.
Names of Fictitious People Pulled From the Environment
Of course, the nanny that Casey Anthony invented needed a name. She was given the made-up moniker Zenaida Fernandez-Gonzalez, which was later found to be cobbled together from the names of Casey’s boyfriend’s neighbors. Unfortunately, there did happen to be a real Zenaida Fernandez in the Orlando area at the time. I can only imagine the trauma this poor woman faced as she was questioned by the police and hounded by the media.
My ex was also forced to come up with a name for my fabricated husband. He settled on Mark (Marc?) Mercer. When I learned about this pretend husband’s name from the arresting officer, my mind immediately remembered a prominently-placed billboard for Mercer University. The location? Snellville.
Just Write it Yourself
Casey Anthony apparently created several email addresses to send messages as other people. She apparently didn’t know enough about IP addresses to not be fingered as the origination point of these emails.
My ex got into my email account and sent a “Merry Christmas” email from me to him that incorporated the fake fact that we were divorced. The only problem? This email was dated in July because he either neglected to alter the date or didn’t know how.
Fake the 9 to 5
For months, Casey Anthony told he friends and family that she had a well-paying job as an event planner at Universal Studios. She would get up, get dressed, and go…well, anywhere but Universal Studios, as they had no record of her ever being an employee. My favorite detail – when the police asked her to take them to where she worked (after they learned that Universal didn’t know her), she walked them into one the buildings, up an elevator and down a hall. She didn’t admit the truth until her back was literally against the wall.
I’ve had to try to fill in the gas about my ex’s fake employment, as he took all of the related documentation when he left, but from what I uncovered, he pretended to have clients in his freelance business for quite some time. He made up assignments, pretended to work on them when I went downstairs to his basement office and funneled money from credit cards when he needed to get paid from his invented clients.
If You’re Backed Into a Corner, Just Change Direction
When police discovered that the nanny’s supposed apartment was vacant (and had been for quite some time), Casey Anthony then came up with a new story about the nanny’s location.
When asked by the police why he was recently in Brazil, my ex first denied ever being there. Then, when confronted with the evidence of the trip from passport records, he then claimed that it was a work trip (this was the story that I had been told along with details that even included pictures of the trade show he supposedly was working). The police then proved this claim false with a short phone call to his boss. Although he was no longer freelancing at this point, he then asserted that he was doing a side job for somebody. His other wife soon dismissed this fiction as well.
Financial Lies and Bad Checks
Casey Anthony had a problem. She told everyone she had a job that paid well, yet she often had no real source of income. While her parents bought her gas and often provided her with a roof over head, she faked the rest with a series of bad checks.
I don’t have much detail about most of my ex’s financial deceptions because the evidence went with him (but suffice to say, he made many purchases with money that he didn’t have). But I did get to see a series of emails between the band that played at his illegal wedding and he and the other wife. He continually assured them that “the check is in the mail.” I’m sure. He also strung his attorney out who made the comment to me after the divorce hearing, “Not until I get paid first.” At that one, I just had to giggle. And then there’s the one that gave me my only sense of justice in this whole mess. He lied on the taxes and, as a result, I was granted innocent spouse relief. Thank you, IRS, for seeing him for what he is.
Garnering Sympathy and Flirting With the Professionals
Casey Anthony would flip between continuing to live her life that nothing had happened and playing the victim. After her case was over and she was found not guilty of the murder charges, she started a relationship with one of the investigators from her case.
My ex (and by extension, his attorney), kept whining that I was “vindictive” because I alerted law enforcement about his bigamous marriage. I know, poor baby. In an email to his other wife and my mother, he then went on to describe me as “impossible to live with.” Of course, the letter then went on to accuse me of doing exactly what he was guilty of. Nice try. His smarmy behavior continued when he went to my attorney’s office to pick up some keys. The paralegal called me after he left and said it was disgusting how he was flirting with her and trying to win her over. Maybe he was looking for wife number three?
I know that the possible murder of a child and the deceptions involved in fraud and bigamy are worlds apart. I’m not trying to equate those two situations. Yet, if Casey Anthony did intentionally kill her daughter, it doesn’t seem to be an act driven by malice or even momentary rage. Instead, it would have been an act by somebody who is willing to take extreme actions to get what they want without concern for the consequences.
And by seeing those parallels between her undertakings and my ex’s, I now am starting to believe that he really was capable of taking extreme actions. Maybe even extending to murder.
And that is spooky.