This week's New Times cover story chronicles the adventures of a Fort Lauderdale bail bondsman, William Staubs, AKA "Cobra," who fell into a world of trouble when he started searching for a missing 5-year-old from Putnam County, Haleigh Cummings. But before he began looking for Haleigh, Cobra briefly searched for perhaps the most famous missing child in Florida: Caylee Anthony.
Caylee was a bright-eyed 2-year-old first reported missing from her Orange County home in July 2008. Her mother, Casey Anthony, admitted that she hadn't seen her daughter for a month. Three months later, Anthony was charged with first-degree murder. Caylee's remains were discovered in December, in woods near her house. Her mysterious death grabbed headlines nationwide.
Cobra worked on the case only briefly, when he followed up on a tip that Caylee had been seen in Glades County -- a tip that didn't pan out. Then, this past February, Cobra happened to be near Orlando chasing a drug dealer. He heard about a memorial service for Caylee involving fellow bounty hunter Leonard Padilla and decided to attend, curious to see how the dramatic case had turned out.
At the memorial service, Cobra met Richard Grund, whose son, Jessie, was once engaged to marry Casey Anthony. Grund soon hired Cobra to do some investigative work to expose the people who had tried to implicate Jessie in Caylee's murder.
Meanwhile, several hours before the service, Haleigh was said to have disappeared from the bedroom of her family's trailer home in Satsuma, a rural, spitball town north of the Ocala National Forest. Camera crews immediately descended on the town and were already drawing comparisons between the two missing-child cases. A woman who advocates for missing children asked Richard Grund to recommend a private investigator to search for Haleigh, and Grund says he referred her to Cobra.
So Cobra left for Satsuma in March, launching a search that would threaten to end his career. "Craziest shit I ever done in my life," he says now. To read more about his adventures, check out "Cobra's Last Stand."