Casey & Me
It wasn’t my intention to become a crime blogger, but once I wrote about the Anthony case, I realized I had to see it through to the end.
Dave Knechel has posted more than 200 blogs about the Casey Anthony case on marinadedave.com, the site he originally set up to write about marinades.
Photo By Norma Lopez Molina
I have been following Casey Anthony’s every move for the past 2½ years, but I am no stalker. You can’t stalk someone who lives in jail and makes an occasional visit to the courthouse, where I go to see her in person. We have never spoken, though our eyes have met and I believe she knows who I am. Casey is a big part of my life, but probably not for much longer.
My immersion into the Anthony saga is not normal, I know. You’re probably sick of hearing about Casey Anthony, who is to go on trial this month, but her name is always on my mind. I’m 58 years old and take care of my elderly parents and two cats, working from home as a freelance Web designer. I would go stir crazy if not for outside interests that stimulate my mind and get me out of the house. I have a laptop and loads of free time. I love to write. I have a blog, marinadedave.com.
It was never my intention to become a crime blogger. Casey just happened to come along at the right time for me, when I was immersed in blogging about a passion of mine that, frankly, makes my fascination with the Anthony case seem normal.
You don’t get the moniker “Marinade Dave” for writing about a murder mystery; you get a nickname like that honestly. I used to make a marinade I sold in local markets, and in 2004 I started blogging about marinades and marinating tips. About 5,000 marinade lovers visited my site every month.
But there is only so far you can go with a blog on marinades, and I had reached my limit with it just as the story of the “Tot Mom” erupted into a national media frenzy in July 2008. That’s how CNN talk show host Nancy Grace referred to Casey during the early days of the mystery surrounding the disappearance of her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee Marie. In October 2008, Casey was indicted for first-degree murder while the search for Caylee continued.
The leap from blogging about marinades to blogging about the Anthony case does seem like a giant one, but it actually began as a small step. I just didn’t know at the time that I had put both feet in quicksand.
In November, while working as a videographer, I found myself in the vicinity of Jay Blanchard Park in east Orange County where a search operation was under way. I decided to stop by, and there I met an affable Leonard Padilla, the bounty hunter who had posted bail for Casey after she was first arrested on child-neglect charges, and members of a dive team searching the Econlockhatchee River.
I asked questions, took notes and shot video and a few photos, then went home to my computer. “The Search for Caylee takes a nose dive” was my first blog on the case, complete with visuals.
The blogosphere is not normal, either, and therefore, it is the perfect place for a guy like me. Through search engine optimization, key words and the power of Google, virtual unknowns like me can be read by thousands of people. My blog gives me some sense of legitimacy as a journalist, despite not working for a recognized media outlet. I’m on my own, but thanks to the Internet my voice is heard.
My first Anthony story brought me new traffic, exciting exchanges on my site’s forums and fresh inspiration. The next thing I knew, I was hip-deep in the quicksand.
On several occasions I drove to the home of Casey’s parents and to the nearby wooded area where the remains of Casey’s daughter were found in December 2008. At both places I shot video and photos for my site. I attended the memorial for Caylee at First Baptist Church of Orlando in February 2009, delivering hundreds of messages of condolences my readers asked me to pass along to the slain toddler’s grandparents, George and Cindy Anthony.
Since the beginning of the ordeal I have felt sorry for George and Cindy. They have lost a beautiful grandchild and have had to deal with the torment of not only knowing that she was murdered but that their daughter is on trial for that heinous crime and she could be executed for it.
Altogether I’ve written more than 200 posts on the Anthony case, covering everything from my thoughts on possible motives that could have led Casey to kill her child (“Caylee’s Murder: Premeditated and pretty stupid, too”) to the irony I found in comments from some professed “good Christians” who wanted vigilante justice (“Casey Anthony must die!”) to the intricacies of various legal maneuvers in the trial (I have amassed a small library of law books).
Somewhere along the way my blog, which now attracts about 100,000 visitors a month, got the attention of the judge who originally oversaw the Anthony trial. I would have never known this had he not complimented my work, and I’m sure he wishes now he had kept that comment to himself.
While researching the media’s coverage of the Anthony murder case, Judge Stan Strickland read some blogs, including mine. He apparently thought mine was fair-minded, and he told me so in his courtroom after a hearing—the first of about 30 I have attended in the case—in October 2009. That remark and a personal phone call to me while I was ill led Anthony’s attorneys to seek his removal from the trial, claiming Strickland was biased against their client.
Instead of fighting the claim, Strickland stepped down in April 2010 to avoid giving the defense ammo for an appeal. While the recusal was good for marinadedave.com, bringing to it thousands of new visitors, it also torqued the lunatic fringe that follows the Anthony case.
I have a small group of haters watching my site, but what a loud and rowdy crowd it is.
They are of the mindset that Casey and her whole family should be taken out and shot, with their bodies left to the vultures. And if you don’t agree, or you believe in due process, or you keep them from posting their Jerry Springer-esque tirades on your forums, like I do, well, they get nasty.
The vitriol my haters have directed at me is of the cheap-shot variety: I have AIDS, I’m gay, I hate gays, I’m into child porn, my teeth are rotten and I smell bad. If only their harassment ended at name-calling. My home address has been posted on various Anthony-related comment fields on the Internet, an oblique suggestion to do me harm, I believe. Posts on other blogs about the Anthony case make it quite clear that I’m being watched when I attend courthouse hearings. Last year an animal control officer stopped by my house, saying an anonymous e-mail had accused me of hoarding pets. (My cats would never stand for it.) My personal e-mail accounts and blog have been hacked.
Normal people would not do such things, but the blogosphere is kind of like the wild, wild West, only worse. There are no rules or codes of conduct. Hiding behind screen names and avatars, blog readers are emboldened by their anonymity to sling virtual mud in the comment forums.
But there’s no better place to throw something out there to see if it’ll stick. Between myself, my contributors and people on other blogs and forums, we have come up with some interesting theories in the Anthony case. For example, back in 2008 the last two houses on Hopespring Drive, where George and Cindy live, were occupied by a woman whose first name is Zenaida and a man whose last name is Gonzales. Put those two names together and you get the phantom nanny (but with a “z” at the end of the last name) whom Casey accused of running off with Caylee. The backyard property lines that separate the two homes point directly to the spot where Caylee’s remains were found. If you type 8905 Suburban Drive in Google Maps, it takes you to the same spot, though there isn’t a house at that location. It’s all woods along that street.
Why 8905 as a street address? August 9, 2005, or 8-9-05, is Caylee’s birth date.
I don’t buy into such theories that suggest the plot to kill Caylee involved such intricate planning as expropriating neighbors’ names and using a birth date as some sort of code.
Still, it’s the bizarre that makes this case so engrossing to my readers and me.
But it will end, sometime in the next month or two probably, and when it does, I will have to move on. And so will many of my readers, I imagine. I don’t see myself going back to writing about marinades, though.
That wouldn’t be normal for me anymore.