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Prosecutor in Casey Anthony case makes A-K family proud

| Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Don Drane of Allegheny Township was surprised by the verdict in the Casey Anthony case but proud of the lead prosecutor in the Florida case.

That would be his daughter, Linda Drane Burdick, the assistant state attorney, who argued the case against the 25-year-old Anthony, accused of murdering her daughter, Caylee, 2.

Anthony was acquitted of murder charges by the jury Tuesday but convicted of lying to the police.

"I think most of America is surprised," Drane said.

But Drane was not surprised that his daughter, a 1982 graduate of Burrell High School, was chosen to lead the prosecution.

"I wasn't the least bit surprised," he said. "She's got 20 years of experience in child abuse and child sex cases and worked in homicide cases."

"She's tried numerous high profile cases over the years, Drane said. "This isn't her first rodeo."

Cindy Drane, an Oakmont resident, exchanged e-mails with her older sister a short time after the verdict was rendered.

"She said she's OK and she'll call me later," Cindy Drane said. "She said she thought she did the best she could. She just wanted to do her job. You just can't predict what a jury is going to do."

Drane said her sister is a passionate advocate for victims of often-nightmarish crimes.

"We always worry about her," Cindy Drane said. "We wonder how she can handle all that, but she just focuses on her job."

The two sisters have come a long way from their days at Burrell High. Cindy, who graduated a year after her sister, works as a finance director for the H.J. Heinz Co. in Pittsburgh.

She said their lives growing up were "just normal Lower Burrell stuff" --- playing softball in high school, swimming at Melwood Pool in the summer and watching the Steelers in the fall.

"You know how sisters are, growing up close in age," Cindy said. "She was always telling on me when I would do something wrong."

While at Burrell, Linda Drane stayed busy. In addition to being captain of the softball team, she was a member of the gymnastics and French clubs, was an announcer, a member of the Explorers, Junior Achievement and the newspaper staff.

The sisters' paths diverged after high school with Linda going to the University of Pittsburgh where she got her undergraduate degree in 1986 and graduated from law school in 1989. Cindy went in the other direction, attending Penn State University, where she earned her degree.

There also are other family members still living in the area. Her mother, Marilyn Jacobs, still lives in Lower Burrell.

Her uncle, Ray Drane and his son, Jeff, both of Harrison followed the trial on TV. They said they have not seen Linda for more than 10 years and were proud of how she handled herself but disappointed in the verdict.

"I was kind of excited in the beginning," Jeff Drane said. "I was amazed that she was in the trial of the century there."

He said that his cousin was always "very smart and very attentive" as a student.

"I think she did a great job," he said."I think it's a disgrace, the outcome of this. I think it is a shame. They just let a murderer walk free."

Cindy Drane also followed the trial and said she was "sick" about the outcome.

"I taped it every day and then watched it when I got home from work, fast-forwarding through the defense," she said.

Aside from the verdict, the only thing that surprised Cindy Drane was the national exposure her sister received.

"I wouldn't expect her to be on TV every day," she said. " It's kind of strange. I get to come home and watch my sister on TV."

She said her sister does not fall prey to the high-profile hype, describing her as "steady."

But the attention was starting to be a distraction as the trial wound down, with people at the supermarket starting to recognize her from TV and publications.

"I told her to put her hair in a pony tail , wear a hat and put on dark glasses," Cindy Drane said.

She said Linda told her that the Florida State Attorney General's office has not permitted her to talk to the media, even after the verdict.

"Geraldo Rivera came up to her and introduced himself, but she told him she couldn't talk to him," Cindy Drane said.

"You'll find one thing out about Linda -- she plays by the rules, her ethics are high," said Don Drane, adding that while they spoke about once a week during the trial, the case was never discussed.

As for the future, Cindy Drane thinks her sister would like to be a judge but is not a political person and does not have the political connections that would likely require.

She thinks her sister will continue to be a prosecutor. She said when Linda was in college she first majored in political science and that piqued her interest in government work.

"I knew it would be something with government," Cindy Drane said. "I think she even had an interview with the CIA or FBI coming out of college."

Don Drane said there was no hesitation in what Linda wanted to do once she graduated from law school. He said she never went into private practice but instead took a job with the Florida state attorney general's office.

"She just believes in the justice system and she believes that is where she can make her contributions," he said.

Drane is proud of how that decision has played out for his oldest daughter.

"Her reputation is well known; she is highly respected," Drane said. "If you followed the case on television at all and saw how she handled herself, she only added to her reputation."

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