Like the infamous Andrea Yates who drowned her five children in the bathtub in 2001, and Susan Smith who strapped her two toddler sons in a car and then drove it into a lake in 1994, Casey Anthony, the mother of three-year-old Caylee Anthony of Orlando, Florida, may soon join the list of American women who kill their children.
Data suggests that at least once every three days, somewhere in America, a mother kills her children. Postpartum psychosis, impulse killings brought on by rage or frustration, and the idea that the child is hindering the mother’s freedom are the three primary causes of infanticide.
More than half of the women on death row are there for killing their husbands and/or children. Shoplifting and the murder of their own children are the only two crimes women commit as frequently as men. Although women commit less than 13% of all violent crimes they are also responsible for about 50% of all parental murders.
Yet, according to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Statistics, of all children under the age of 5 murdered from 1976 to 2005, fathers killed 31% while mothers killed 29%. So if fathers kill as many of their children as mothers, why do the news media focus more on women than men?
A study done by Cheryl Meyer and Michelle Oberman offers a possible answer. The study noted that, in general, the public felt “a special kind of horror” about women who killed their own children and condemned the mothers as either “mad" or bad.
Mounting evidence suggests that Casey Anthony did indeed murder her child. Caylee was missing for 31 days before her mother filed a police report. Casey told detectives that her daughter had been staying with a nanny who ran away with the child. But no one has ever seen the nanny, nor is there any record of payments made to a nanny. Forensic tests concluded that Casey's car trunk contained decomposing human body matter and traces of chloroform. Authorities also seized a computer on which she researched how to use chloroform.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reports that mothers who murder their children often disposed of the bodies by carefully wrapping them in plastic or submerging the small bodies in water within 10 miles of the family home.
If Caylee’s body is ever found, it’s likely that she will be found close to home and covered as if she were once again back in her mother’s womb.