It was the telephone call that started one of the most widely-watched criminal trials in American history.
“I’ve found out that my granddaughter has been taken,” Cindy Anthony told the dispatcher, her voice rising in alarm. “She has been missing for a month. Her mother had finally admitted that she had been missing.”
“There is something wrong,” she continued. “I found my daughter’s car today and it smells like there’s been a dead body in the damn car.”
Authorities arrested Casey Anthony and charged her in connection with Caylee’s death. After a worldwide search for the missing toddler, the girl’s remains were found on December 11 in a wooded lot less than one-third of a mile from the Anthony family home.
Casey’s 2011 trial was a media circus, with at least 40 million people watching at least some of the testimony, according to Nielsen Research. She was acquitted of murder and manslaughter charges on July 5, 2011 — but convicted on four charges of lying to police.
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Eleven years later after Caylee was reported missing, the family still struggles with their experience.
“July is a hard month for them,” a family source close to Casey’s parents, George and Cindy, tells PEOPLE. “Their whole life fell apart in July 2008, and they’ve never recovered.
“They lost their granddaughter, and, in effect, their daughter,” the family source continues. “And then three years later, they had the trial. Every day was so hard for them, and I don’t think a lot of people take that into account. Can you imagine what it was like to wake up in the morning, walk through the jeering crowds, and watch their daughter face trial for killing their granddaughter? It broke them.”
“Yes, July 15 is a tough day for them and always will be,” says the Anthony family insider. “It will always be the day that they lost everything. It’s a somber day.”
Casey and her parents have a fractious relationship that has never recovered from the events.
“As Casey is getting older, she’s just realizing that she’s better off without dealing with them,” says a different source close to the 33-year-old. “It’s not that she hates them; it’s that their relationship has become toxic and is not healthy for any of them. So she stays away.”
For Casey Anthony, July 15 isn’t really a notable day. “Everything was already in motion for Casey by July 15,” says the insider. “There are other days that mean a lot to her, but today isn’t one of them. She’s just moving forward.”
But for George and Cindy, it is a day of remembrance. “They will be sad about it,” says the family source, “but ultimately they will try to remember Caylee and the good times they had in the almost three years. They had her for a short time, but they loved her very much. And they’ll remember that.”