It was a case that horrified the nation: Reported missing in July 2008, 2-year-old Caylee Anthony was found dead five months later, her decomposing body lying in a wooded area less than half a mile from the Orlando home she shared with her family. By that time Caylee's single mother, Casey-who had failed to report the toddler's disappearance for a month-had already been arrested for her murder. Imprisoned in the Orange County Jail since October 2008, Casey, 25, steadfastly maintains her innocence, as do her parents, George and Cindy. Now, after years of legal maneuverings, the case is in pretrial hearings. The trial itself, expected to last eight weeks, begins May 9 and will be televised. A pretrial update:
Why has it taken so long?
More than 60 witnesses have been deposed and 24,500 pages of discovery released. "This is a complex case with many moving parts," says a source within the state attorney's office. And because Anthony is facing the death penalty, he adds, "We are all very careful. It's not uncommon for these cases to take years to go to trial."
What is Casey Anthony's life like now?
According to a jail source, she spends her days reading the Bible and writing letters in her 12×7 cell in the Protective Custody wing of the Orange County Jail, emerging from her cell for daily showers and exercise, alone in the prison yard. Aside from weekly meetings with her lawyers, she hasn't had visitors since 2008. Per Florida law, all inmate visits and phone calls are videotaped and public record, so her family has chosen to stay away. "I realized that nothing would be private," Cindy Anthony told PEOPLE in 2009, "so I decided that I wouldn't go back to the jail."
What is the most damning evidence against Casey?
Prosecutors say that weeks before Caylee's disappearance, someone used the computer in the home Casey shared with her parents to search "neck breaking" and "how to make chloroform." Investigators found traces of chloroform in the trunk of Casey's car, along with evidence of human decomposition.
The prosecution has pictures of Casey partying just days after she says Caylee vanished; during the same time period, she used stolen checks to purchase groceries, beer and lingerie. (She pleaded guilty to the theft in 2010.)
When Caylee's remains were discovered, investigators said that someone had placed duct tape over the little girl's mouth, the same brand that was found in the Anthony home.
What is Casey's defense?
It's hard to say, since most of her early statements have been proven false: The nanny she claimed to have left Caylee with doesn't exist, nor do the people she allegedly told about the disappearance. Her defense team won't reveal its strategy ahead of time, but one thing is certain: Casey won't plead guilty. Says her lead attorney, Jose Baez: "She is innocent, and she wants to have her day in court."
Who is still in her corner?
Most of her friends have turned their backs, including pal Kiomarie Cruz, who told investigators that Casey "didn't really want the baby" and would have given her up for adoption if Cindy hadn't stopped her. Casey's parents have been through hell: It was Cindy who first reported Caylee missing and told police Casey's car smelled like "a dead body." In 2009 police found George in a Daytona Beach motel with a suicide note. But both parents and Casey's brother Lee, 28, testified in her defense during pretrial hearings. As Cindy left the stand on March 2, she turned to Casey and mouthed, "I love you."