Detective Who Hid Casey Anthony for Two Weeks Tells All

Photo Illustration by Erin O'Flynn/The Daily Beast/Getty
Photo Illustration by Erin O'Flynn/The Daily Beast/Getty

After countless news articles, books, and the currently-streaming docuseries Where the Truth Lies, one abiding mystery about accused child killer Casey Anthony remains: her whereabouts in the two weeks after the sensational not guilty verdict in 2011.

The Daily Beast can now report that she was in a car with a retired NYPD detective, Jerry Lyons, who was under orders to drive the client known as ‘the Most Hated Woman in America’ somewhere—anywhere—to keep her out of public view.

Anthony had faced the electric chair after her arrest for allegedly killing her 2-year-old daughter Caylee in 2008. Lyons had been hired in the midst of the case after he handed his résumé to lead attorney Jose Baez at a capital punishment conference. It was his first case as a private investigator, which he approached just as he had assignments when he was on the job in New York.

“I’m like an old hairbag, old-time detective,” Lyons told The Daily Beast. “I’m out there knocking on doors. That’s what I do. I knock on doors and I talk to people.”

Anthony was acquitted after a six-week trial, but she was still widely reviled when she walked free in July 2011 from the Orlando, Florida jail where she had been remanded in solitary confinement for three years.

“Baby killer! Baby killer!” shouted an angry mob amidst a media swarm.

<div class="inline-image__caption"><p>Casey Anthony cries with her attorney Jose Baez after she was acquitted of murder charges on July 5, 2011 in Orlando, Florida. </p></div> <div class="inline-image__credit">Getty Images</div>

Casey Anthony cries with her attorney Jose Baez after she was acquitted of murder charges on July 5, 2011 in Orlando, Florida.

Getty Images

Lyons helped hustle her away to a seaside house in the panhandle where the defense team hoped to hide her from ill-wishers and the clamoring media. She was then spotted walking along the shore with one of her lawyers.

“I guess whoever saw her on the beach called up the newspaper or a news station or whatever, and instead of coming out to the house and knocking on the door like a real reporter would do with the most hated woman in America, you know what he does? He calls the house and says, ‘Is Casey there?’” Lyons remembered.

The defense team gave Lyons urgent instructions.

“‘You gotta get her out of here,’” Lyons recalled. “They’re afraid that somebody’s gonna come out there.”

He immediately climbed into his white Ford Taurus with the 25-year-old beside him.

“We left in such a hurry, I left my suitcase there,” Lyons remembered. “I left with [just] the clothes on my back. We started to drive north. I don’t want people to catch me there.”

<div class="inline-image__caption"><p>People react outside court after hearing the jury’s verdict acquitting Casey Anthony of first-degree murder.</p></div> <div class="inline-image__credit">Reuters</div>

People react outside court after hearing the jury’s verdict acquitting Casey Anthony of first-degree murder.


He drove as fast as he could without being stopped for speeding, which could have alerted the whole world to where she was.

“You’re trying to speed, but not speed,” he said. “The last thing you need is to get pulled over.”

He drove on with no immediate plan besides getting away from Florida. He faced a sudden crisis when she needed to use a restroom. He decided there was too great a chance she might be recognized if they stopped at a highway service plaza. He decided on a Chinese restaurant instead, figuring the people running it were probably too hard-working to spend their days watching tabloid TV, such as Nancy Grace’s show

“[Casey] just laughed,” Lyons recalled.

They kept on and were soon nearing Virginia, but he understood that he would eventually have to stop to sleep.

“It’s getting late,” Lyons recalled. “Do I stay in a hotel? What do I do?”

He decided to telephone one of his daughters, who was in her twenties and lived alone in a two-bedroom apartment in Baltimore.

“I said, ‘Me and Casey are on the run, ‘We need a place to stay for tonight. Can we come to your house?’” he recalled. “And she said, ‘Yeah, sure.’”

Lyons arrived with Anthony around 12:30 a.m. He was exhausted and fell asleep on the sofa while Anthony chatted with his daughter.

“I wake up the next morning, the two of them are still in the kitchen, talking,” he said. “They stayed up all night and talked. It was probably the first time in over three years that Casey spoke to somebody who’s around her age. I have no idea what they talked about. I never asked my daughter.”

Lyons continued north with Anthony next to him, talking about everything and nothing after three years in solitary.

“She was in a cell 23 out of 24 hours a day,” Lyons said. “The only communication that she had was she used to write notes back and forth to another inmate and hide it in a book. And the book would go back and forth and they would like have a conversation that way.”

As she started to open up to him she would periodically tear up, as Lyons would have expected of a young woman in her circumstances.

“She cried a lot,” Lyons said.

<div class="inline-image__caption"><p>Jerry Lyons with Casey Anthony.</p></div> <div class="inline-image__credit">Courtesy of Jerry Lyons</div>

Jerry Lyons with Casey Anthony.

Courtesy of Jerry Lyons

During most other moments, she was someone who had been in a cell, unable to say anything to anyone.

“I’d say, ‘Casey, do you want to put on the radio?’” Lyons recalled. “She wanted to talk.”

A full tank of gas only lasted about six hours and whenever they had to stop to fill up, Lyons felt the danger that they could be recognized.

“I was a nervous wreck,” Lyons recalled. “‘Cause here she is, the most hated woman in America. What if somebody recognizes her, you know?”

However, Anthony, he recalls, remained calm as she visited the restroom.

“She’s going in, coming out,” Lyons said. “She was braver than me.”

In the absence of no destination beyond simply remaining out of sight, Lyons decided to take her to Washington Heights—the neighborhood in upper Manhattan where he had grown up. He showed her his old apartment building and where he had played stickball and basketball and tackle football and a variation of tag called Ringolevio.

The teeming streets that he now showed Anthony had since been overrun by drugs and crime.

“She had to be shocked,” Lyons said. “This girl grew up in this nice neighborhood outside of Orlando and I’m showing her 191st Street. She’s never been anywhere like that before, I’ll tell you that.”

Anthony had a camera with her. The woman who had an army of paparazzi in search of her was constantly snapping away as Lyons drove.

“She was taking pictures of everything,” Lyons recalled. “I remember her always out the window with the camera.”

He continued on to the Bronx, where his family had moved when he was 16, the year before he joined the Navy. They stopped into a late-night pizza parlor and she had still not been recognized.

“We got pizza for the two of us,” he recalled.

Anthony told him that she had spent her earliest years in Ohio and remained a big Ohio State football fan. The football season had not yet started, but he suggested they take a drive to Columbus.

They drove through the night to Ohio, where her father, George Anthony, had been a sheriff’s deputy before moving with his family to Florida. Lyons says that Casey Anthony told him that her father had sexually molested her. She then said something that convinced him she was telling the truth.

“She said to me, ‘I’ll tell you this, the only thing my father didn’t do to me was kiss me on the lips,’” Lyons recalled.

He added, “Sexual abuse is abuse and has nothing to do with affection. And kissing on her lips is affection.”

Anthony has recently repeated the molestation accusation in the latest Peacock docuseries and suggested that her father had done the same to Caylee. Anthony would further allege he had concealed the child’s body so nobody would discover what he had done to his granddaughter.

‘Casey Anthony: Where the Truth Lies’ Tries, and Fails, to Win Us Over to the Infamous Woman’s Side

George Anthony did not respond to a request for comment from The Daily Beast, but he has emphatically insisted he never sexually abused or otherwise harmed anyone. And many people would note that while Anthony was acquitted of murder, she was convicted of lying to the police—initially saying that Caylee had been kidnapped by a nanny who proved to be non-existent. She had also falsely told the police that she worked at Universal Studios. Lyons remains one person who believes not only Anthony’s allegations against her father but also that she is innocent of murdering little Caylee.

“I believe Casey in all of this,” he said. “I really do.”

Upon arriving in Columbus, they strolled much different streets. Nobody seemed to see her as anything but just another young person in what to Lyons took to be largely a college town.

“I think the further away you got away from Florida, the less they cared about the Casey Anthony case,” Lyons said. “So she was less recognizable.”

He still took precautions when checking into several hotels.

“I would always go in to get the rooms and she would stay in the car and, and I would bring her in when nobody was looking,” he remembered.

Lyons got a call informing him that Anthony’s defense team had arranged a place for her to stay near the Hunts Point Market in the Bronx. They headed back east, making a late-night stop in Philadelphia for one of the city’s famous cheesesteaks.

“Neither of us ever had a cheese steak,” Lyons said.

The only place they could find that was still open served up what Lyons remembers as possibly the worst cheesesteak on Earth.

“What a disappointment,” Lyons recalled.

After Lyons dropped Anthony off in the Bronx, he got an urgent call from the defense team telling him that it turned out Anthony was still on probation for lying to the police.

“They said, ‘You gotta go get Casey, bring her back to Florida,’” Lyons recalled.

Lyons managed to return Anthony to Florida without her being recognized. Her whereabouts over the next two weeks remained a mystery as she was taken in by another, high-profile private investigator. Lyons reports that Anthony now does work for this investigator helping to locate people

“She’s pretty good on social media where she just tracks people,” Lyons said.

Lyons still occasionally sees Anthony, even as recently as a few months ago. He remembers her visiting his Florida home in late 2011, when the youngest of his five children was about the age of Caylee when she was murdered. Lyons watched Anthony and his daughter draw with chalk in the suburban street out front.

“I felt comfortable, the two of them outside together,” he said.

He understands that Anthony remains widely reviled despite the docuseries that is as sympathetic to her as he has continued to be since that time when they started driving north in his Taurus. He views the tears he watched her shed in her first sit-down interview to be as genuine as when she was crying next to him in the car 11 years ago.

“Those weren’t fake tears,” he insisted.

But he knows that many people made up their minds about her long ago.

“Anybody who hates her will always hate her,” he said.

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