Ever since the 2008 disappearance of 2-year-old Caylee Marie Anthony, Janice Seals-Mack has eaten up every sound bite she could find on the missing-person-turned-murder case.
So when she heard Tuesday that Caylee's mother, Casey Anthony, was found not guilty of murder, Seals-Mack, 57, couldn't help but react with shock and disappointment.
"Oh, my God," Seals-Mack exclaimed when she heard the verdict after slipping into a downtown bar to watch it on TV.
"Personally, I feel that she's guilty," said Seals-Mack, a grandmother and retired child protective-services worker visiting from Macon, Ga. "If it was an accident, why not report it to 911?"
Across Central Florida, people gasped and cried out at the moment the verdict was announced, whether or not they agreed with it.
"The story is so crazy, and the outcome is even crazier," said Frank Saljanin, 34, who owns a pizza parlor in downtown Orlando and walked to the courthouse after the verdict was announced.
Outside the courthouse, hundreds of people roared with outrage. A few said there hadn't been enough evidence to convict, and dozens more waited around, cameras ready, in the hope of seeing some of the players in the case leave the building.
"I'm sure that it will be about as big as the O.J. Simpson case down the road, and it will be nice to say you've been there," said Deanna Jett, 20, of Stuart, who stood on a bench outside the courthouse, hoping to take a picture of Anthony on her cellphone.
Instead, Anthony was returned to the Orange County Jail until sentencing Thursday.
Ten miles away, near the home Anthony shared with her parents and Caylee on Hopespring Drive in east Orange County, a stream of mourners and trial watchers expressed disappointment.
"I'm very, very sad, said Marie Chelabi of Orange County, who carried a teddy bear to a makeshift memorial for Caylee that recently sprang up off Suburban Drive, where the girl's body was found in December 2008.
Defense attorneys José Baez and Cheney Mason celebrated their victory with a champagne toast at Terrace 390, a restaurant across the street from the courthouse on Orange Avenue.
As word of their whereabouts spread, people gathered in front of the door of the restaurant, where the lawyers were hanging out with about 20 other people, including TV personality Geraldo Rivera.
"They shouldn't be celebrating," Wanda Tyler of Orlando said. "A little girl is dead, and they helped her killer go free."
Janine Gonzalez, who lives a couple of miles from the Anthony home, also was appalled.
"Where's justice for Caylee?" she asked. "Do you mean to tell me that in Florida you can kill your child, toss her on the side of the road and go free?"
Mesmerized by the six-week trial and the mystery of Caylee's death, people expressed surprise and anger that the young mother likely will be released from jail after she is sentenced for lying to law officers — the only crimes the jury found she had committed.
"I'm physically ill that she is walking," said Diane DiMaria, 58, who is visiting from Virginia Beach, Va., and watched the verdict at a downtown restaurant. "I'm a mother."
Others said they were surprised by the jury's decision but understood it because they thought prosecutors did not present a strong case.
Casey Anthony verdict shocks Central Florida
Hundreds gather outside courthouse in downtown Orlando, watch at restaurants, bars and anywhere else they can find a TV
- Video: Casey Anthony case
- Casey react
- Read: Completed verdict forms from the jury's decision in the Casey Anthony trial
- Pictures: Casey Anthony trial, reaction, release from jail
- Pictures: Caylee Anthony crime-scene photos (Warning: Graphic images)
- Editorial cartoons: Dana Summers cartoons about Casey Anthony
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- Justice System
- Orange County (Florida)
- Trials and Arbitration
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