Casey Anthony walked out of jail a free woman under heavy guard in the early hours of yesterday, facing shouts of "baby killer", days after the US watched in rapt attention as she was acquitted of murdering her two-year-old daughter, Caylee.
The 25-year-old, who has spent years in the spotlight, including two months of nationally televised trial proceedings, swiftly boarded an SUV just after midnight and rode out of public view, her destination unknown as new questions unfolded as to what her future would hold.
As Ms Anthony's vehicle left the jail car park, the crowd of more than 100 people surged against the orange plastic police barricades and some yelled "You suck!" Mounted patrolmen and police cruisers blocked the street outside the jail so Anthony's vehicle could drive on to a nearby highway ramp unobstructed.
"A baby killer was just set free!" Bree Thornton, 39, shouted at the passing SUV. Ms Anthony had a handful of supporters in the crowd, including one man who carried a "Casey, will you marry me?" sign.
But her backers – at the jail and across the country – appeared to be vastly outnumbered by her critics.
When Ms Anthony was acquitted on 5 July, hundreds of thousands of people captivated by the case – and doubtful of her credibility – poured their rage into postings on Twitter and on Facebook, which has an "I Hate Casey Anthony" group.
Ms Anthony's legal team said on Friday that they had received an emailed death threat with a manipulated photo showing their client with a bullet hole in her forehead.
Since her acquittal, Ms Anthony has been finishing a four-year sentence for telling investigators several lies, including an early claim that her daughter was kidnapped by a nonexistent nanny. With credit for the nearly three years she had spent in jail since August 2008 and good behaviour, she had only days remaining when she was sentenced.