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Chasing Casey 

America's top not-guilty murderess is holed up in Geauga County AND WE TRACK HER DOWN.

A Scene Adventure News Team Exclusive Report

Featuring Exclusive Adventure News photos by FRANK J. LANZA and Similarly Exclusive InfoGraphic by AARON SECHRIST

The moment the tip landed in the Adventure News Team Inbox, it was time to clear some space on the trophy shelf. After all, Pulitzer-karat gold only comes along several times a career. And this gift was custom-forged in spotty grammar:

Hey asshats, hate the newpapr. you guys really suck!!! y don't u do some reporting isn't casey anthony supposd to be in newbury or sumthing??? my friend saw that ho like dancing on a table at italian joint their. ha maybe SHES IN TOWN TO OPEN A DAYCARE !?!

>:0 mangia mangia xxxxxooooooxxxooo loyal reader

It all made perfect sense. Then again — perfect sense didn't get Casey Anthony this far.

All signs indicate the table-dancing 25-year-old killed her two-year-old daughter Caylee, the better to keep her calendar open for Chili's Two-For-One margarita nights. Claiming the child was kidnapped, she led the country on a crazed ruse that ended with a murder charge — a rap she beat last month when a jury ruled not guilty as the rest of America ruled bullshit. The only question left, apart from whether Nancy Grace would personally gut her with a spork, was where the liberated Lolita would start her life anew.

For weeks, unsubstantiated but highly enthusiastic rumors have linked Casey with sleepy Newbury Township. And it makes all kinds of sense: Geauga County is an oasis for nutjobs laying low, what with its quiet country roads, sparse population, delightful ice cream stands, easy helicopter access, and heavy cartel presence. Plus, we hear she was born near there or something.

In no time, the backwoods newswire served up photos purportedly depicting Casey engaged in activities that closely resembled walking guiltily. Television news crews scuffed their loafers in pursuit, to no avail.

But here in our Inbox was something very different. A provocative new tip — the kind of tip that provocative stories are made of: Casey Anthony is opening a daycare center in our midst. The scenario brings to mind scandalizing questions about government oversight, police misconduct, consumer rights, trans fats, and systematic extermination of America's bald eagle population. In other words, this here is some journalism gold.

The Adventure News Team immediately halted all top-priority exclusives in order to give full pursuit to the Anthony tip. That's right: The full resources of one moderately hung-over reporter and one crack freelance photographer itching for his rightful dose of tabloid fame. Casey Anthony lies in wait in Newbury, and we won't rest till we've found her. But first, who's hungry for breakfast?

***

August 4

Daybreak in Countryville

It's 8 a.m., and the aforementioned Adventure News Team has hit the streets of Newbury no more than three hours later than planned. Already, nobody is around. As we survey the barren landscape, it all seems crystal clear: The entire populace has gone underground, probably refilling kibble bowls in Casey Anthony's crawl-space hiding spot.

A suitable stand-in for an Orlando stomping ground if ever there was one, downtown here consists of the intersection of State Route 87 and Auburn Road, a neon stretch of sin about as long as a coughing spell. It's just the size for a freshly sprung sweetie to get her Jell-O shot on without the whole world — and that includes you, Anderson Cooper — noticing.

Our first stop: a purposeful march to the town hall, the better to grill officials about our exclusive revelation that one Casey Anthony plans to capitalize on her infamy by opening a chain of daycares headquartered in Newbury. This kind of on-camera confrontation makes for Emmy-winning webisodes. Unfortunately, we do not have a video camera.

But the town hall is empty, the bigwigs nowhere to be found. The lone person to answer the door is a government clerk who's saying all the right things. Too bad for her that "right things" aren't on our shopping list today. She offers only a bland statement denying Casey is in Newbury and dismissing our insider tip as — get this — rumor.

Here's another rumor: Newbury bureaucrats make lousy liars. Yes, there's more than one player in this game of charades. Which always makes for a better game of charades anyway.

The question now: Has the Casey Anthony Deceit Train rolled into the station of local law enforcement? Only time — plus a modest bribe to the gas station attendant who kindly points us in the general direction of the Geauga County Sheriff's Office — will tell.

***

10:24 a.m.

The Long, Obfuscating Arm of the Law

Back at the station house, Sheriff's Lieutenant John Hiscox wears the tired air of an honest knight of justice, all bruised and battered from his joust with the unmitigated corruption and slavering evil that run wild like hogs through his town every day. He agrees to sit down with select members of the Adventure News Team for an exclusive interview on the troubling reports that there's a misplaced non-murderer lurking among the townsfolk.

"The only calls that we're getting about it are from the media," Hiscox says, his voice now dripping with unease. The "official" line is clear: The Geauga County Sheriff has no knowledge about Casey Anthony being within county lines. And no, they haven't provided any clandestine escorts for recently acquitted Floridians — not officially anyway. Hiscox knows nothing about a daycare. Officially speaking, that is.

But then he breaks down under the heat of interrogation. Yes, Casey sightings are on the rise. "Now everybody and his brother who sees a girl with long brown hair thinks it must be Casey Anthony," he says.

It's an insidious turn of events indeed, delivered straight from the loose lips of the law: The town has been stocked full of Casey Anthony decoys.

But there's more, Hiscox unwittingly reveals. The reports first came in last week, when a Cleveland TV station called with a tip about a moving truck and police escort delivering Casey to a house on Bell Road in Newbury. The Sheriff's department coyly asked what markings were seen on those escort vehicles. The station responded they were marked plain as day: Newbury Police.

"The Newbury Police Department has been gone for years," Hiscox blurts.

Exactly who could muster such executive leverage as to quickly redeploy a long-shuttered police force? Hiscox deftly chooses not to elaborate.

Bell Road — that's where the lawman says Anthony was spotted. But after 45 minutes of hunting for the elusive address, it becomes crystal clear that Bell Road is just the place for a homicidal hottie to ride out the media storm. The street is impossible to find. Even with directions from two more gas station attendants plus an online map, the byzantine backroads fail to cough up Bell. Only one conclusion can emerge. Casey Anthony had it removed the way only a high-powered sex-kitten fugitive evading America's watchful eye can: She paid off Google. The corruption knows no end.

The conspiracy grows, but so do the myriad possibilities. Faced with an August sun growing hot and a trail going cold, we turn to a local coffeeshop and a teenage barista with a twitchy tongue. This girl's spilling more than decaf.

"I haven't seen her, but I know someone who has," she says, pausing just long enough for us to turn the page of our exclusive Adventure News Team reporter's notebook. "My friend's uncle's roommate saw her eating at an Italian restaurant in Newbury. Mangia! Mangia!"

One tip starts the goose chase. Two tips corners the goose. And she wasn't the first gander to squawk this name.

Italian restaurant. Mangia! Mangia! The mental rolodex flips back to the initial e-mail and the seasoned breadcrumbs that marked the trail. It's clear as chloroform: Casey's in Newbury all right, and she stinks of garlic bread.

***

11:40 a.m.

The Newbury House of Noodles & Sex

"Mangia! Mangia!" It's where Casey Anthony has been spotted on at least two occasions. But one thing about Mangia! Mangia! is crystal clear: This place is also something else — the Geauga County variant on the infamous "Bunga Bunga" sex parties hosted by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. A party girl with Casey's street rep would surely need to break her jail-enforced celibacy — and fast. And where better to go wild than an orgy attended by the county's power players, political heavies, and underage lingerie models.

The only question: Does it make too much damned sense?

Pull up to ground zero, and it's plain to see the address doesn't wear its iniquity for public consumption. Mangia! Mangia! capably fronts as a standard-issue, "family-owned" Italian restaurant. But the highly trained Adventure News eye sees it for the Buca di Bimbo that it is — the kind of joint where each day starts by hosing the residue from the previous night's celebrity sex rituals off the basement walls.

But at quarter to noon, Mangia! Mangia! is no Bunga Bunga. The wait staff scurries about, brushing off very pointed Adventure Team questions, perhaps because they cannot hear our strategically pointy whisper.

The tables for now sit virtually empty. The overhead fans bat about the smell of fresh pizza and stale subterfuge.

And then she steps up to our booth.

"I haven't seen her here," a smiling Casey Anthony tells us before walking to the next table to take a drink order. "But everybody says she's been in here."

After a brief assessment of our undergarment integrity, an extended gaze through squinted eyes reveals a cache of fool's gold. Turns out it's not Casey taking orders, but another woman who bears an exclusively striking resemblance to her. By now, this much is crystal clear: Casey Anthony is deploying an army of cosmetically altered body doubles — just like Saddam Hussein did. And they're scattered throughout the county. The ruse duped the hacks in the NewsChannel 5 truck. It won't work on us.

It also turns out Mangia! Mangia! has been slinging hearty portions of vindicated vixen for the better part of two weeks now: Business has skyrocketed since Casey was spotted in town, says the owner's daughter, Natalie.

And then she catches herself, one uttered scandal too late.

"Well, it's mostly been regulars coming back around asking 'All right, what's the real story?'"

Perhaps the real story is a little tale called Free International Exposure Off The Back Of An International Outlaw? Natalie says the restaurant has been on TV four times already. Later today, she's scheduled for a phone call with CNN's Dr. Drew Pinsky. And he's not placing an order for breadsticks.

"I think what he wants to talk to me about is why she might come to Geauga County," she explains.

Pinsky, that ingenious bastard. Things are clearly getting more serious than we thought. The phone call is mere reconnaissance for an inevitable airlifting of his rabid team of reality-TV producers into Geauga County. No doubt he's heard about Casey's plans for a daycare; no doubt he's coming to town to collaborate on a reality show documenting the struggles of a small business headed by an E-grade celebrity, while simultaneously putting said celebrity through his patented "treatment" regimen. Addicts and small businesses — two of the most popular reality tropes in one ratings-busting series. It will probably have midgets too.

For the Adventure News Assault Team, the search has taken a desperate turn. Anthony must be found before Cable Boy gets his mitts on her. Our next move is crystal clear: If the high-definition reality TV cameras are on the way, Casey will need a comprehensive exfoliating facial. And there's just one place you get that in these parts.

***

1:05 p.m.

Blow-Dry and Brush-Off

On the hunt for a beauty parlor, we efficiently happen upon the only game in town: X-Plosion Hair Salon, an unlikely storefront sharing a side of road with empty septic tanks and farmland. It's just the kind of place you would go if you were a doe-eyed 25-year-old free to do as you please yet sentenced to live an eternal existence amid the fiery inferno of public damnation. Plus their prices are fantastic.

Inside the ample-mirrored parlor, four stylish ladies — Cindy, Bunny, Mary Ann, and Crystal — are riding out a midday lull, armed with the local gossip and ready to spill it over an Adventure News Eyebrow Waxing.

And spill they do — usually all at once, in a thinly veiled effort to confuse the issue of who exactly is saying what and when. That, and the heady ozone of hairspray combine to elbow virtually all the oxygen from the room.

"You should have been here earlier," says Mary Ann, or possibly Bunny. "You missed the Amish girls who come in here to tan."

But bronze Amish girls are for the workday's end, and this day is just beginning. Through the haze of chitchat and aerosol, one fact is crystal clear: Casey Anthony has not been through for a facial or dye — not even for a mani-pedi.

"People are only saying that because there's a girl who works at Mangia! Mangia! who looks like Casey Anthony," says Crystal, who might actually be Cindy.

"It's been all over Facebook, my daughter says," Mary Ann or Bunny adds.

But the stop is far from fruitless. In fact, it's all becoming crystal clear: For the group's fairer gender, Amish life isn't all 18th-century piety and fresh butter churned in ankle-length surge dresses. Amish girls of Casey's vintage are just the kind of sex-fueled booze guzzlers an undercover tramp would feel at home with. Their rite of "Rumspringa" — an Amish term for sex-fueled booze guzzling — is defined by exactly the type of virtue-free excess Casey Anthony types can't get enough of. It starts with slow-roasting in X-Plosion's tanning beds, but moves on to puffing cigarettes, chatting on cell phones, and riding the countryside late at night with boys in horsedrawn buggies — outfitted with blasting boom boxes and plenty of extra batteries.

For a wild child on the lam, Amish country makes for a fitting if tawdry knockoff of authentic Florida nightlife.

The connection makes even more sense considering the financials, and Casey would know them well: Thanks to the enormous profits of their illicit puppy mills and their Bush-era government farming subsidies, the Amish have ample cash to invest — and what's a better investment than a cable-TV reality show with loads of sex and Dr. Drew? It's all so crystal clear: Anthony is embedded — and almost certainly in bed — with the Amish.

And then, a most fortuitous break: With the Adventure NewsCruiser still perched in the X-Plosion parking lot, a tractor comes into view, motoring along the country road and piloted by a genuine Amishman — the kind of Amishman who plows paydirt by the acre. With a squeal of rubber and a whiff of burnt motor oil, we swing into line behind the vehicle. The chase is on — and this mouse has plenty of fight in him.

As if on cue, the Amishman goes heavy on the throttle, and his metal steed takes off toward oblivion. Twenty-five mph, our speedometer reads, and just minutes later it's veering perilously close to 30. Johan's trying hard to shake us, ducking down side streets and swerving between lanes.

But just as we're about to overtake the tractor, the NewsCruiser sags on the starboard side and dips into the ditch. The tire's been slashed, obviously by an agent of the Amish who didn't take kindly to our tanning-bed interrogation. Looks like we were getting a little too close for Amish comfort. From our dusty perch down the road, we can make out the tractor's driver pointing his beard in our direction, raising a hand in a mocking wave goodbye. Curse you, Old World anachronism.

***

4:56 p.m.

The Pulsating Heart of Newbury Nightlife

"There's no way you can move to a place like Newbury and not have everyone in town know about it," Matt says. "No way at all."

Matt's behind the bar at the Ramble Inn, Newbury's finest liquor establishment. It's late afternoon, the regulars are lining the bar, and the Adventure News Strike Force is drowning its frustration in Bud Light — the nectar of nubile ne'er-do-wells, and the tasty bait on today's hook.

The Ramble Inn is just the kind of shadowy hole-in-the-wall a certain twentysomething fugitive might patronize between Amish sex parties with Dr. Drew. But the ceiling here's too low for table dancing, and Matt says she hasn't been around.

"What you should do is drive by a group of Amish, yell 'Hey Yoder,' and whoever doesn't turn around, that's her," he offers. The sting of missed opportunity calls for the healing salve of whiskey.

The sun's still high now, but morale is low. Word is that Casey blew off a court-ordered visit to Florida today, but the latest rumors peg her whereabouts not in Newbury but Columbus, where her traditional Amish garb won't do her any favors. But without our trusty vehicle at the ready, Columbus might as well be a two-hour drive away.

There's talk among the ranks that it might be time to pack it in and return to Adventure HQ bereft of exclusiveness. After all, there's blogging to be done.

But then along comes Martha, chiming in like a one-woman chorus of angels — the kind of angels that tend bar in village taverns. Which Martha does.

"Oh yeah, Casey Anthony," she says from across the room. "I hear she came here to open a daycare."

As the regulars share in a finely calibrated round of laughter, a clean page is turned over in the Adventure News notebook — yet another confirmation that Casey's got her sights on Geauga's children. Every nugget has been precisely on track. Casey's here, and she's waiting to be found.

So we press on with our hunt, first by ordering two more beers and a bowl of resourcefulness. A special-ed school bus out behind Newbury High School looked primed for hotwiring. A fresh supply of sin-soaked Amish can't be that hard to find.

Before long, the Adventure News Caravan of Awesomeness will be cruising the lonely foothills again, far off the grid, shaking down every shifty beard and bonnet about the lady hiding behind the grain silo. The aroma of horse dung leads the way to our prize, the smell of Pulitzer awaits us when we get there. Or maybe that's just the horse dung.

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