Thinking about those final moments is horrifying. Put in a larger context, it's even more unsettling. The truth is that the toddler's death has led me to reconsider one of society's great quandaries. Since Caylee's body was discovered last month (photo of scene below left), I've chewed on a single question: What could have been done to save her?
In our democracy, families aren't supposed to be interfered with without cause. When it comes to the Anthony case, prior to Cindy Anthony's 911 call ("It smells like there's been a dead body in the damn car"), we've been told of no prior evidence of anything amiss in the Anthony household.
I know that's not what many of you want to believe. It's so much more satisfying to think that some vast organization manned by faceless bureaucrats should have saved that precious toddler. But that's not true. Not under these circumstances.
For the protection of our society, we don't want CPS or any branch of law enforcement insinuating itself into our families without ample cause. Any policy that would allow government to enter our homes on a fishing expedition, looking for neglect or abuse without prior evidence, is terrifying. The simple truth is that in this case, and in many others where a child dies, no investigation was justified.
Still, as I'm writing this, I have to admit that doubt nags at me. Not about the big picture but the small one. If Casey Anthony murdered her daughter, she didn't just snap, not when she researched neck-breaking and chloroform on the Internet. Certainly this case appears to smack of considerable premeditation. So, shouldn't someone have witnessed something? Shouldn't those close to Casey have seen something foreboding in Casey's relationship with little Caylee? I mean, could that young mother really have fooled everyone?
I don't believe it.
At the very least, we know that some who knew the family are saying Casey didn't want Caylee. There are reports that Casey wanted to put her daughter up for adoption. If that's true, Casey had options. Many states, including Florida, have laws that allow parents unwilling or unable to care for a child the right to take the child to a "safe harbor." A mother and/or father can drop off a child at a designated place, including fire stations and hospitals, and, without explanation, walk away. It's difficult not to look at the photos of Caylee and think about how many families would have loved to offer her a home and a future. But someone, perhaps her own mother, apparently decided the toddler didn't deserve that chance.
Unfortunately, as a society, we can't do a lot to protect the Caylees of our world, children at risk who appear outwardly to be well cared for in good homes. The protections available only kick in when those close to a child—family, neighbors, friends—watch, notice, and speak out. Perhaps some of Casey's family and friends now, in hindsight, recognize danger signs. But, of course, now is too late.
What can we learn from Caylee's death? Maybe that if we're all more aware, we'll be forewarned. And perhaps then there will be at least hope that some will be saved.Tweet