Guardian Angels Join Cops to Patrol Casey Anthony's Home

By Walter Pacheco | Willoughby Mariano and Sarah Lundy | Sentinel Staff Writers
Posted September 19, 2008

The violence brewing outside the Anthonys' house has reached the boiling point.

Now, officials are stepping up patrols in the chaotic east Orange County neighborhood where protesters and taunters are facing off against the family of missing 3-year-old Caylee Marie.

Late Thursday night, about a half-dozen deputies patrolled outside the Hopespring Drive home, and four members of the Guardian Angels kept watch in their trademark red berets.

They arrived after a series of tense confrontations outside the Anthonys' home between late-night hecklers and the missing girl's family members led neighbors to complain that the subdivision has become unsafe for children, and may grow more dangerous. The latest fracas took place early Thursday.

Protesters say they're trying to pressure the family to make 22-year-old Casey Anthony crack and tell investigators what happened to her daughter. Cathy Harris, 39, of east Orange County says the Anthony family members are in part to blame for the scuffles, saying they know they inflame hecklers each time they scream back.

"They're looking for it, too," Harris said of the family. "And I think they're trying to look like victims."

Attorney Mark NeJame, representing Casey's parents, George and Cindy Anthony, said protesters have a "mob mentality" whose actions escalated to "unacceptable and dangerous levels."

NeJame said he will meet with the Sheriff's Office today to address the issue.

Casey Anthony told investigators she left her daughter in mid-June with a baby sitter -- a person authorities have not been able to find and who they don't think exists. The child was reported missing in mid-July.

Some demonstrators are tourists or college students, but many are stay-at-home mothers from east Orange. Many leave their children at home. Others bring them and their spouses along.

Almost all of them say they're fans of the Nancy Grace show on cable TV, where guests butt heads over the latest crime news. The show has focused on Caylee's disappearance since the news broke.

Witnesses to Thursday's 1:30 a.m. melee gave differing accounts. Hecklers are accused of walking onto the Anthonys' property and banging on their garage door -- taunting the family and rustling neighbors from their sleep. But Harris, who said she was there, said a youth who was not part of the demonstrations pounded on the door.

The noise brought George Anthony storming out of the house. He took on the protesters in a face-to-face screaming match.

"It's getting physical right now," Casey Anthony told a 911 dispatch operator as her parents and hecklers scuffled.

Moments later, a female protester yanked on George Anthony's T-shirt.

His wife, Cindy Anthony, wielding an aluminum baseball bat, wedged herself between her husband and the protesters to protect him.

"This needs to get taken care of immediately," Casey Anthony told the dispatcher.

Last weekend, a boy's arm was clipped by a car door during an argument between Cindy Anthony and the boy's mother. The Department of Children and Families is investigating.

Sheriff's spokesman Jim Solomons said patrols will increase today and during the weekend.

"Our primary concern has always been to locate missing Caylee Marie, but last night's violence is an additional burden," Solomons said.

Those involved in the Thursday confrontation could face battery charges, he said.

The Chickasaw Oaks Phase Three Homeowners Association on Wednesday made a second bid at a temporary injunction to move protesters to a lot at the end of the street -- hundreds of feet from the Anthonys' home.

The original injunction was denied because the attorney didn't notify protesters.

Some neighbors wrote statements to the judge so he can better understand their situation.

Karen Wonsetler, the attorney representing the association, said the violent confrontation is proof the injunction is needed.

Wonsetler asked NeJame to advise the Anthonys not to hold prayer vigils outside their home because "it invites confrontation."

Orange County Commissioner Linda Stewart, who represents that district, told the Sheriff's Office that a temporary curfew could bring relief.

"A short-term curfew could disperse the anger and bring some normalcy to this neighborhood," Stewart said.

Source: Orlando Sentinel