On November 1, 2007, Meredith Kercher, 21, was found semi-naked with her throat cut in her bedroom of the student house she shared with Knox (pictured center) in the Italian hilltop town of Perugia.
Her Italian ex-boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito (above, to Amanda's right), and another man, Rudy Guede (left), are accused of sexually assaulting, brutally murdering and stealing money from Kercher, Knox's British roommate in Perugia, the ancient learning hub near Rome where Knox was spending a year abroad from the University of Washington.
Pre-trial hearings are ongoing in this case–and a murder trial is finally on the horizon.
Peter Van Sant is a correspondent with me at 48 Hours–he has been working on this case for months. For those who missed the Mystery Man column he wrote for us in April, here it is. For our regular readers, here's a primer on an upcoming trial worth following.
by Peter Van Sant
Amanda Knox is the classic all-American girl. She was a straight-A student at Seattle Prep, one of the top Jesuit high schools in the country. She plays guitar and has a wonderful singing voice, starring in a production of "Annie."
Amanda went on to attend the University of Washington in Seattle, where she discovered her true passion in life, languages. She speaks fluent German (her grandparents on her mother's side are from Germany), Italian and some Japanese and Russian. Her friends describe her as friendly, helpful, someone who is concerned about others.
While studying in Seattle, Amanda learned about a school in Perugia, Italy, called the University for Foreigners. Perugia is a beautiful medieval town about a two-hour drive north of Rome. The university offers students from around the world an opportunity to study in Italy. For Amanda, who was always interested in learning about different languages and cultures, it seemed the perfect place to go.
So while attending the University of Washington, Amanda worked three part-time jobs on the side. Eventually, she saved up more than $7,000. She was accepted into the University for Foreigners, and late last summer, she arrived in Perugia to begin a year of study abroad.
She got her chance last year and moved to Italy, where she attended a different school from Amanda's, the University of Perugia. Meredith needed a place to stay, and she eventually found a house she could rent with two Italian students and a young woman from Seattle, Amanda Knox.
On the night of November 1, 2007, Meredith was last seen walking home after having dinner with friends. Amanda wasn't home. She was spending the night at her boyfriend's house.The next morning, Amanda claims she went home to shower and change her clothes. She was upset that someone had left the front door open. After her shower, when she came out of the bathroom, Amanda says she noticed some blood on the floor. She tried calling her roommates, but no one answered their cell phones. Meredith's bedroom door was locked.
Amanda called her Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, who walked over to the house. Just then, police arrived. Meredith's two cell phones had been found in someone's yard. Police had come over to the house to return them.Amanda told the police of her concerns. They broke open Meredith's door and discovered her body lying on the floor, covered with her bedspread. There was blood everywhere, including bloody finger stains on a wall.
Meredith's throat had been slashed. Authorities believe she may have taken nearly two hours to die. In the room were some tantalizing clues, a bloody fingerprint and a shoe imprint left in Meredith's blood on the floor.
Amanda Knox was questioned by police. She was later taken back to the crime scene with her boyfriend. Police wanted to see how they would react. They held each other and kissed several times, quick pecking-style kisses. Since Amanda's house was now a crime scene, she didn't have access to her clothes. Later, the two went to buy underwear for Amanda. The clerk claimed they were talking about having steamy sex that night. Authorities thought the behavior was cold and insensitive.
Four days after the murder, Amanda and her boyfriend were brought back to the police station for questioning.
After an all-night, 14-hour session in which Amanda was denied sleep, food, or an attorney, she agreed to sign a statement saying she HAD been at the house that night and that she thought she remembered her boss, Patrick Lumumba, killing Meredith Kercher. You should read her statement. It's written in bizarre English, clearly not dictated by Amanda.Amanda, Patrick Lumumba, and Raffaele Sollecito were all arrested.
Police developed a theory of the crime. They claimed that Amanda, Patrick, and Raffaele wanted Meredith to participate in kinky four-way sex. When Meredith refused, she was assaulted and murdered. The theory was fed to the news media in Italy and Great Britain. For weeks, tabloid newspapers gave the case sensational front-page coverage. Italian television also did extensive coverage. Much of the country saw Amanda as "The Dark Angel of Seattle." That coverage made its way to the U.S. as well.
Through her parents, Amanda has proclaimed her innocence. 48 Hours Mystery hired a renowned private detective, Paul Ciolino of Chicago. The investigator went to Italy to examine the case against Amanda. Ciolino has spoken with witnesses, key investigators, and people who knew all the suspects involved. He has come up with a startling conclusion.
This is a railroad job from hell," says Ciolino, a cigar chomping, pug-faced detective, who specializes in wrongful arrest cases. "There's not a shred of evidence putting this girl at that murder scene. But they've gotta convict her now, or they look like fools."
48 Hours Mystery has learned disturbing new details of what happened during Amanda's 14-hour interrogation that led to her "confession," which was not recorded or witnessed by a third party.
Paul Ciolino also questioned one of the most important witnesses in the case, a woman whose story helped form the police theory. What the woman tells Ciolino, while a 48 Hours Mystery camera is rolling, turns the case upside down.
In Italy, a person can be held without charges for up to one year. Amanda has still not been charged with any crime. She sits today in a maximum-security prison, allowed to see her parents twice a week for a brief time. Her parents say she is frightened. This is as disturbing a case as I've ever covered. (Click here for the full story.)