Friday, August 29, 2008

The queen,the princess and the pawn- The Caylee Anthony Saga

I remember the first time I saw Cindy Anthony on Nancy Grace. She said her granddaughter Caylee was missing but she knew Caylee was still alive because Caylee was so special that no one could look in her eyes and do anything to harm her. My heart sank right then. I knew she believed every word she said, but I also knew that "special" doesn't provide an armor for children. We have seen it time and again. Was Adam Walsh, Polly Klass, or Dylan and Shasta Groene not special? Yes, of course they were special! It became apparent then that Cindy Anthony was living in some fairy-tale land.

As she spoke it also became apparent that Cindy was very much the "queen of her castle". Some have criticised her for her attitude with the press and her unwavering public display of support for her daughter in the face of some pretty distressing evidence. Casey's friends told the police that Casey said she was overbearing. Stubborn could probably be added as well.

For the record I don't fault Cindy for her, queen of the castle status. I would like to think I'm the queen of my castle. This is a woman who has been married many years, she has raised two children, works as a registered nurse and keeps a tidy home. FGS, even with the crush of media in front of her house Cindy and George are out there piddling in their yard. The queen refuses to surrender her castle!

When the Princess Casey came home with a "bun in her oven", the queen said, " it will be OK ". In Cindy's fairy-tale when the princess was older she would be thankful that the queen discouraged adoption and they would all live happily ever after. The problem here is Princess Casey lives in her own fairy-tale world and doesn't want to live under King George and Queen Cindy's rule.

The "bun in the oven" was a beautiful baby girl named Caylee. For a time it looked like all was well in Anthonyland and they would live happily ever after! But this was not to be. Little Caylee was soon to become a pawn in a struggle for power in Anthonyland. King George and Queen Cindy doted on little Caylee, probably much as they did Princess Casey and her brother Lee long ago. Because the king and queen loved Caylee and the princess so much , they made them very comfortable in the castle hoping the princess would stay with her daughter. The princess not only stayed, but by her own admission to police, she took more than fair advantage of the situation.

As time wore on and the novelty of a baby began to wear off, the princess began to formulate a new fairy-tale world. A world where she can do what she wants, when she wants, and she will be the best at everything she does!


In Anthonyland the princess began having trouble living her fairy-tale life. As the baby gets older, the king and queen expect her to be responsible for her daughter and hold down a job. Lucky for the princess she was a master tale spinner. How many times did she leave the castle, pretending to go to work at Universal (In her dream job as an event planner with her own office, none the less).

Was she pretending the whole 1 1/2 to 2 years that "Zanie the Nanny" took care of Caylee?


This is where the fairy-tale takes a darker turn.....only the Anthony clan knows for sure what happened in early June that prompted the princess to flee the castle with her little pawn. Did they find out she was lying about her job? Did they complain she was spending to many "all nighters" with the boyfriends to properly care for Caylee? Had they caught her stealing?Who knows, but one thing is for sure. By all accounts she left with Caylee on June 9. We have learned from statements to the police by Casey's friends that she and Caylee stayed at random places with friends and took Caylee with her to parties.

We also know that the princess returned her little pawn to Anthonyland sometime father's day weekend. The neighbors reported there was arguing in Anthonyland that Sunday night of June 15th. The next day was the last time that Caylee was ever seen.

I don't pretend to know what happened to Caylee from here on out. We do know that Casey went on a lying and stealing spree. Her fairy-tale world expanded to include a lot of vacations at the beach for Caylee and her nanny. She also told friends that her parents were splitting up and she would buy their house. (I assume with the money that she makes at that dream job.)



I wanted to believe this fairy-tale, that Caylee was alive. I never believed there was a Zenadia caring for Caylee, but I did think it was possible that the princess was so determined to rule the kingdom she had hid her pawn from the king and queen. As the forensic results have been leaking out the past few days, it has become clear that little Caylee is no longer alive. Something we all really knew after the cadaver dogs had "hit" in the backyard and in the trunk of the car....but I admit I still wanted to believe it was a mistake.

I just saw a news report from today, Cindy still thinks that Caylee is alive and is working on starting a new search for her. Until Cindy and George accept the reality that Caylee is gone, we can expect Casey to continue with her fairy-tale world. Perhaps if she sees that no one in Anthonyland believes her anymore and that they are grieving for Caylee she will tell the truth. Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, August 24, 2008

One of these days I'll get started here!

The first post on here is my " in the courtroom" report of the August 6 arraignment of accused spree killer Nicholas Sheley in Galesburg, IL. I look forward to attending the next pretrial hearing on October 6. I will blog here about my overall feelings on this case and others; however, my " in the courtroom " coverage of Sheley's pre-trial hearing and the actual trial will be reported exclusively on Sprocket's Trial & Tribulations blog, as a guest entry. Please check it out there. :-)

T&T was my favorite place to go for coverage of Phil Spector's 1st murder trial and I'm looking forward to Sprocket's "in the courtroom" reporting of California v Spector round 2 ! That trial should get underway in October as well, unless Spector's defense can come up with another stall tactic!
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Friday, August 8, 2008

Accused spree killer pleads not guilty to 17 counts

Nicholas T. Sheley 28, Sterling, IL is suspected of killing 8 people in Illinois and Missouri. He is only charged in 4 deaths so far. Today I attended the arraignment of Sheley at the Knox County courthouse in Galesburg, IL... Sheley is accused of kidnapping, killing, and robbing Ronald Randall 65, of Galesburg on June 28. He is also accused of stealing Randall's 2007 Chevy pickup. I arrive at the courthouse a little before 9 a.m.. The hearing isn't supposed to start until 9:30 so I take my time going in. This courthouse, that was built in 1886, is a sandstone building with ornate details typical of the Romanesque period. Adjacent to the courthouse is Standish Park Arboretum, a three acre ( lol , that's about one square block for city folk) park with almost 200 trees and shrubs. Seems like an unlikely setting for the ugly business that goes on inside.

The arraignment is being held on the 2nd floor today. I take the staircase instead of the elevator. I remember loving to ride that elevator when I was a kid. It wasn't much more than a metal cage then, but still had an "elevator operator". Today the elevator is the (somewhat) modern push button type. As I climb the stairs, which wind around the elevator shaft, I notice what looks like parts of the old elevator are mounted on the walls of the elevator shaft. The county seems to do a good job of preserving the integrity of this building while adapting to today's needs.

When I reach the 2nd floor, I notice 3 or 4 sheriff's deputies standing in the hall in front of the courtroom. Sheley must be here already. It's only about 5 past 9 so I'm a little surprised when I enter the courtroom and the hearing seems to be getting under way. The Sheriff, David Clague, and another guy are sitting in the second row on the defense side. On the prosecution side there is 4 or 5 women who seem to be court employees sitting in the front row. I settle in behind them in the 2nd row. There are only a few other people in the gallery so I have a lot of choices but I have a good side-view of Sheley from this seat. He has a new buzz cut which makes his hair look darker and is wearing glasses. Has Knox County provided Mr. Sheley a pair of specs? Of course he has on his jailhouse orange jumpsuit and is fully shackled.

Judge James Stewart says the purpose of this hearing is an arraignment and to consider a motion filed by the defense. Judge Stewart talks about the grand jury, serves the defense with a copy of the 17 count Bill of Indictment and then reads the indictment to the courtroom. Counts 1-10 are first-degree murder charges. The indictment alleges that on June 28 Sheley caused blunt-force trauma to the head of Ronald Randall that resulted in Randall's death. Aggravating factors listed in the indictment are that the blunt-force injuries to Ronald Randall were the result of heinous behavior and wanton cruelty to someone age 60+. Judge Stewart went on to read counts 11-17 which allege that on June 28 Nicholas Sheley kidnapped Ronald Randall, robbed him and stole his 2007 Chevy pickup.

Because I'm trying to get down as much as I can of what the judge says, I don't pay much attention to who is coming and going. I did notice a young woman come in by herself who looks familiar, not like I know her personally, but I've seen her before. I don't think she is a court employee because she has on jeans. A group of women come in about the same time and sit in my row. I do recognize a few of these women as friends of the victim. I saw them on the local news after Mr. Randall's body had been found.

I turn my attention back to the judge as he tells Sheley that in Illinois the minimum sentence if convicted of 1st-degree murder is 20-60 years. If aggravators are found to be present by the finders of fact, Sheley could face natural life in prison or the death penalty (should the state choose to pursue death). Furthermore; in Illinois, if the finders of fact are not unanimous when considering the death penalty, the sentence of natural life would be imposed. The judge does have the final say if the death penalty is imposed by the finders of fact and he /she doesn't agree. Judge Stewart asks Nicholas Sheley if he understands the charges and the penalties. Sheley responds clearly, "I do your honor". Indeed he has followed closely and whispers to his attorney occasionally. Those glasses must just be readers. I notice he takes them off whenever he looks at the judge.

Judge Stewart asks the defense how they will plead to the charges and the Public Defender (P.D.), James Harrell responds not guilty to all 17 counts and requests a jury trial. The judge said there is some housekeeping to do. Because this is a possible death penalty case, he and all attorneys must be certified by the State Supreme Court as a member of the Capital Litigation Trial Bar. The judge states that he is qualified and looks to the prosecution table. Assistant Attorney General, Michael Atterberry rises and says that he is a member of the Capital Litigation Trial Bar. States Attorney (S.A.), John Pepmeyer, says something I didn't get but I did hear him say his membership is on hold and he has been a practicing criminal attorney for 35 years. Public defender, James Harrell says that he is a member and moves that Atterberry should be considered lead attorney for the prosecution. I didn't hear the response to this, but I looked up the statute for Illinois when I got home and it is a valid request as the law reads.

The judge goes on to say the state has 120 days to decide if they will seek the death penalty. He adds the sooner the better, so everyone knows how to proceed. Stewart states they should have a case management conference in 60 days to see where they are on discovery. Because of the publicity this case has received Judge Stewart says he feels compelled to make some rules for trial publicity. He said he doesn't want to infringe on any one's 1st amendment rights, but in order to ensure a fair trial, attorneys involved will not make public statements as to guilt or innocence, statements made or not made by the defendant or any merits of the case. Judge Stewart pauses as if for effect and then asks if everyone is ready to proceed.

The P.D., Harrell wants to enter a motion. As he starts, S.A., Pepmeyer asks for a sidebar. When the lawyers returned to their seats, Harrell wants the judge to admonish the defendant of the possible penalties for the last seven counts of the indictment.Oops...just about left that out. The judge says that counts 11-15 are class X felonies, punishable by 6-30 years ( 60 if aggravators are found ) the last 2 counts I didn't catch. My notes from the last hearing say they are class 2 felonies with punishment ranging 3-15 years, a $25,000 fine and 2 years supervision after release.

S.A. Pepmeyer then requested a pre-trial discovery order on or before September 12. P.D. Harrell wants October 23. Pepmeyer says he is concerned about the speedy trial rule. Judge Stewart makes it clear any delay will be "on" the defense. Harrell agrees and the judge then rules September 21 on discovery and October 6 at 9 a.m. for a pretrial hearing. The judge then advises Sheley that by Illinois law he is entitled to a second defense attorney and reminds him that he must be qualified for capital litigation.

Harrell enters his motion to enter a permanent preserve evidence order. Judge Steven Bordner had entered an emergency order on July 11th and he wants it continued. Judge Stewart tells the prosecution all evidence they have should be preserved. The case is continued to October 6 at 9a.m. and the hearing is over.

A couple Sheriff's Deputies hold the gallery back while others escort Sheley out of the courtroom and to the elevator. I am focused on the women who came and sat in my row. I noticed they are speaking to a woman in the front row. I realize the woman they are talking to is Shirley Pringle, a victim rights advocate for Knox County. I wonder if one of these women in my row is Ronald Randall's sister. I made a mental note to ask a friend of mine if she knows what Randall's sister looks like and headed out.

I need to stop by the Circuit Clerks office to see if I can get a copy of the motion that was filed. Turns out the court reporter won't be done with the motion until noon so I will have to come back. A woman asked me if I saw who that girl was yelling at? I said what girl? She pointed to the girl in the jeans I had spoke of earlier. As this girl went down the stairs ahead of me I realized where I had seen her before. She is Sheley's ex-wife, the news report I saw her on was right after he had been caught and she said she had been very afraid for her and her kids.

The Quad Cities are right in between Galesburg and Sterling so we have seen coverage from both areas on WQAD. Today she doesn't look afraid, she looks mad. She brushes off the press and heads through Standish park. A local reporter told me she yelled " Anything you want to say to your kids?" but she doesn't mention a response from Sheley. I see WQAD is here so I will catch the evening news to see if they caught what happened.

WQAD reports Sheley mumbled something in reply to his ex-wife then clearly states "Tell them I love them." There was a pause. Then as Sheley entered the elevator she shouted, "What did you do, Nick?" Sheley turned his back to the her, and she shouted again, "What did you do?". ( I must have just missed this confrontation because I was right behind her on the stairs.) WQAD also reports that Sheley blew a kiss at their camera as he climbed the stairs from the courthouse basement, and that's when Newschannel 8's Chris Williams asked, "Nick, are you concerned about the death penalty? "Sheley responded, "It's all in God's hands." Chris then asked the million dollar question, "Did you do it?" Sheley answered, "It appears you guys already made a decision." He then got into the squad car and blew another kiss before the car drove away.

I just wonder what the defense will be for Sheley. One thing is for sure, this trial is just the beginning for Nicholas Sheley. A Whiteside County grand jury just indicted Sheley for killing a 93-year-old Sterling man. The 14-count indictment accuses Nicholas Sheley of first-degree murder in the June 23rd death of Russell Reed. Sheley is also charged with home invasion, burglary and robbery for allegedly storming 90- year-old Janice Wilson's Sterling home on June 14th. And this is still not the end for Sheley.... Two first-degree murder charges have been filed in Jefferson County, Missouri against Sheley accusing him of killing Tom and Jill Estes, a 54-year-old couple visiting Missouri from Arkansas.

What remains to be seen is if Nicholas Sheley will be charged in Whiteside County in the deaths of 4 people (including a 2-year-old boy) found in an apartment in Rock Falls, IL on June 28th.
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