By MIKE SCHNEIDER
ORLANDO, Fla. — Since her release from jail, Casey Anthony has been A) sipping iced coffee and shopping at an Old Navy store near the Ohio State campus, B) camped out in a Florida Panhandle beachfront rental home, C) running from a private jet in Orlando with her head covered by a jacket or D) none of the above.
While the whereabouts of the mom acquitted of killing her toddler last month have become a national parlor game, one thing is certain: She wasn’t in a Florida courtroom Friday when a judge heard arguments about whether she must return to Orlando to serve probation. Her lawyers have not disclosed where she is except to say she was out of state earlier this week.
Judge Belvin Perry will decide next week whether Anthony must return. Until then, her location is anyone’s guess.
When Anthony was released in the overnight hours of July 17, an SUV whisked her and attorney Jose Baez to a parking garage of another defense attorneys’ office as television news helicopters followed. But the trail was lost as car after car left the garage with no sign of Anthony.
Reporters staked out local airports but no one saw Anthony leave.
Speculation surrounded a twin-engine private jet headed for Columbus, Ohio, since Anthony was born in the Buckeye State and has relatives there. But when the plane landed, the only passengers to exit were golfers returning from a Florida vacation.
Anthony next was reported to be staying at a three-story beachfront rental home on St. George Island, Fla., a barrier island with some of the Gulf Coast’s most serene beaches. A nearby airport had been one of the stops for a small plane that left the Orlando Executive Airport a few hours after Anthony’s release, but reporters who got into the gated neighborhood and knocked on the door were greeted by a vacationing hardware salesman from Chicago and his wife.
Other reports had Anthony boarding a plane owned by her ex-attorney, Todd Macaluso. The plane returned to Orlando a few days after Anthony was set free and a local television station broadcast images of a woman running from the aircraft. The woman wore clothes similar to what Anthony had on when she was last seen. Baez put out a statement saying it was a hoax. “Macaluso having fun with you,” he texted a reporter at the TV station.
The Ohio rumors have persisted.
Last month, chief deputy Scott Hildenbrand of the Geauga County sheriff’s office in Ohio squashed rumors that authorities provided Anthony a police escort for moving vans and protected her at a secret location in the northeast part of the state. Another rumor, reported widely on the Internet, had her at an Italian restaurant called Mangia Mangia.
This week, TMZ posted images on its website of a woman who resembles Anthony strolling down a street near Ohio State, sipping an iced coffee and picking through dresses at an Old Navy. The woman wore glasses and a bright red Ohio State ball cap, offending some ardent Buckeye fans already reeling from a cash-for-memorabilia scandal in the school’s football program.
A local disk jockey offered to pay Anthony, if it was indeed her, $10,000 if she would trade the cap for one from rival Michigan.
“Don’t disgrace Ohio State anymore,” pleaded Jimmy Jam in a video posted on the website for WNCI-FM. “We’ve been through enough this year.”
In Florida, Judge Perry described the Anthony case as a mess. He inherited the probation issue after Judge Stan Strickland recused himself earlier this week, most likely because of his comments during television interviews about the jury who acquitted Anthony.
Strickland had sentenced Anthony in January 2010 to one year of probation after she pleaded guilty to stealing checks from a friend. He said Anthony should serve the probation upon her release, but those instructions never made it to a written order. Corrections officials interpreted the sentence to mean Anthony could serve the probation while she was in jail awaiting trial.
Strickland clarified in an order this week that Anthony needs to start serving probation now that she is out of jail.
Perry said he has to consider whether he has jurisdiction to correct “a scrivener’s error.”
“So far, I have not been able to find anything that has dealt with this particular situation ... anywhere,” Perry said. “This is a legal morass. If anything could go wrong, it went wrong here.”
Anthony’s attorneys argued that Anthony already has served the probation. They said Strickland didn’t have jurisdiction over the case anymore and that his original sentencing order could not be corrected more than 60 days after it was issued. A probation supervisor testified by telephone that Anthony completed her probation in jail without any problems.
Prosecutor Frank George told the judge that probation isn’t for someone who already is imprisoned.
“Miss Anthony was required to do nothing,” George said. “Her only obligation was not to attack anybody or escape and she would have fulfilled the probation.”
Returning Anthony to Orlando could raise security concerns since she has received death threats, her attorneys said.
“She has completed and already served the sentence,” said defense attorney Lisabeth Fryer. “This is done. This is over.”
Associated Press writer JoAnne Viviano in Columbus, Ohio, contributed to this report