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Amanda Knox: Innocence Lost

Wednesday, October 31, 2007, Halloween.  The university students in Perugia, Italy are in a holiday mood.  Meredith Kercher, Amanda Knox and their friends attended a Halloween pub-crawl until the wee hours and were looking forward to the three-day weekend.

November 1st, All Saint’s Day.  Amanda, a study abroad program honors student from the University of Washington, was in Italy for about 45 days when Rudy Guede, a local petty criminal, murdered her English roommate, Meredith. 

November 2nd, All Soul’s Day.  For the Kercher, Knox and Sollecito families, life would now be known as Before and After.  In a tragically ironic twist, Meredith would be murdered on All Saints Day and her body found on All Souls Day.

Twenty-one year old Meredith was an Erastus scholar from Leeds University and was enrolled in a yearlong European Studies program at the University of Perugia.   She was planning to spend the holiday weekend having dinner with friends, relaxing and catching up on schoolwork.  Her boyfriend, Giacomo Silenzi, had gone home to see his family. 

In a few days she would also travel home to celebrate her mother’s birthday.  Arline Kercher was in poor health and, for Meredith, every moment spent with mom was a blessing.  The sights and smells of EuroChocolate had delighted Amanda and herself as they strolled around looking for confections to buy for her family.  She had found some delectable treats for the party.

Twenty-year old Amanda and her 23-year-old boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, also had plans for the weekend, they were going for a drive through the wintry Italian countryside.  Raffaele was looking forward to showing off the Umbrian vistas and he found Amanda’s bubbly enthusiasm charming.

Meredith and Amanda are remarkably similar, both known for intelligence, kindness, sunny personalities, athletic ability and talent.  Despite the divorce of their parents, the scholars came from comfortable upper middle class backgrounds. They were nurtured in loving families and were much-admired sisters with a resolute circle of friends.  Had it not been for Rudy’s intervention, true to their nature, the girls would likely have remained friends after leaving Perugia.

The young women shared an upstairs apartment, four bedroom and two bath, with Filomena Romanelli and Laura Mezzetti.  Downstairs lived four young Italian men, including Meredith’s boyfriend Giacomo Silenzi.

A spectacular view and wild garden graced the two-story cottage just outside the medieval walls that enclosed Perugia; the eight young adults provided passing entertainment for the older neighbors across the street.  Except for the medieval wall, you’d see the same thing on Capitol Hill, Green Lake or the U District.

On this Umbrian hillside, in the Tuscany loved by many Islanders, the girls were having the best time of their young lives.

The last time the new friends saw each other was the morning of All Saints Day.  Raffaele was making lunch for Amanda when Meredith got up and they invited her to join them, but she could only visit for a few minutes since she had plans for the day.  Meredith gave Amanda a fake tattoo while she chatted with the pair, then showered, put some clothing in the washing machine and left the cottage.  Amanda and Raffaele never saw their friend alive again, a crushing blow to all that knew her.  Her sparkle, gone.

By that evening, all six of the Italian kids had gone for the three-day weekend, leaving Meredith and Amanda alone in the cottage. 

Amanda stayed the night at Raffaele’s, they ate, drank and made merry.  Just kids hanging out watching a movie, playing on the computer and other young adult pastimes.  Activities done for centuries in Tuscany.  Tempting fodder for the tabloids of today.

Meredith met her English gal pals and later they had a relaxing dinner chatting about the pub-crawl and school, but the young women were tired from Halloween’s festivities and Meredith was looking forward to having the apartment to herself for the evening.  She borrowed a textbook and left, planning to finish her homework and laundry; it was about 8:45pm.

Sophie Purdham accompanied her most of the way home, they parted company about 8:50pm and Meredith arrived home about 8:55pm.  The last communication was an incomplete cell phone call to her mother in England at 8:56pm; Arline Kercher would never receive another phone call from her youngest daughter.

It was Meredith Kercher’s ill fortune that Rudy Guede was burglarizing her apartment when she arrived home.

Ron Hendry, an American forensics engineer, reconstructed the crime scene for; this website has the approval of Amanda and Raffaele’s defense team, as well as their families, and a comprehensive review of the case.

Mr. Hendry’s analysis indicates that Rudy Guede (goo-day), acting alone, took a large rock and broke Filomena’s bedroom window, which was a little more than arm’s length from the edge of the bulkhead.  Then the athletically inclined young man easily clambered through the second story window, something he had recently done to a Perugian business, climbing up 15 feet to access its offices. 

Because Guede was a friend of the guys downstairs, the defense speculates that he knew the occupants of the cottage would be gone during the holiday weekend.  In light of his desperate financial circumstances, run-ins with local law enforcement because of his lifestyle of burglary and drug dealing, it is probable that he expected to find cash or valuable items in the upstairs apartment. 

Mr. Hendry continues, “When Meredith entered, Guede was answering a call of nature on the toilet in the front bathroom that Filomena and Laura shared.  DNA on a piece of toilet paper would later be recovered from the unflushed toilet bowl.” 

Meredith could not have seen him unless she walked into the kitchen and peered around the corner; instead she walked straight down the hallway to her bedroom.  It appears she never knew Rudy was there until he overpowered her in the small, 9 x 11, bedroom at the back of the apartment.  She was trapped.

“Guede held a knife to her throat in an attempt to subdue her, but Meredith was strong willed and not the type to willingly submit to a robber,” said Mr. Hendry, referring to her family’s description of Meredith’s grit, athleticism and physical strength.

“After a brief struggle, and seeing he couldn’t control her, an enraged Guede viciously stabbed Meredith in the neck cutting her artery.  Guede was behind and above Meredith, who was on her knees, when he inflicted the mortal wound.”

Defensive wounds show that Meredith tried to defend herself, but in the end she was no match for Guede’s brute strength.  She died from exsanguination and asphyxiation; her tiny bedroom became a blood bath.

Most chilling of all, Mr. Hendry concludes, “In an inhuman act of depravity, after inflicting the mortal wound, Guede disrobed Meredith, cutting her bra off with the knife after wiping it on the bed sheets.  Then he sexually molested her as she lay dying, likely out of intense misdirected anger at the helpless young woman for ruining his life.”

Guede grabbed towels from the bathroom at the back of the apartment, the one that Meredith shared with Amanda, leaving tiny blood spatters here and there on the sink and bidet.  There was a faint, but bloody, bare footprint on a corner of the bathroom rug and Mr. Hendry states that this clue “suggests that Guede had taken off his right shoe in order to clean Meredith’s blood from his foot.”

Then the callous thief-turned-murderer threw the bedspread over Meredith’s body and stole both of her cell phones, credit cards and $300.00 Euro from her purse.  He locked her bedroom door, bloody sneaker prints trailing down the hall and left the front door standing open as he disappeared into the night.

Guede threw her phones into a garden a few blocks away; no phones to ring unanswered in Meredith’s room.  He later confessed to the police that “after running away he went home and changed his clothes; they were never found.  Then he went partying (apparently spending Meredith’s rent money) and was seen around 2am in a disco, swaying alone on an empty dance floor.  Guede was establishing an alibi and the people who came into contact with him that night said that he “smelled bad and acted strangely.”

Early on November 3rd, Guede fled Italy and drifted around Europe for about two weeks, he was captured in Germany on November 20th and had been following the investigation on the news and by Skyping with friends in Italy.

An abundant amount of Rudy Guede’s DNA was collected from Meredith’s clothing, purse, on and inside her body.  He left his bloody handprint on a pillow under her body and his bloody shoe prints were all over the scene.   A week after the murder police would identify Guede from the handprint and the manhunt was on.

But Meredith got a piece of him; hairs found in clutched her hand immediately alerted police that her assailant was a black man.  Well done dear.

In his confession he states that he and Meredith were making out, but decided to quit before having sex and then he went to use the bathroom.  While on the toilet in the front of the house, he says an unknown assailant attacked Meredith in the back of the house.  He tried to save her (using a towel to stem the arterial flow) and then ran away, frightened of being blamed because he was black.  This is what American police call a SODDI defense: “We had sex, I split and Some Other Dude Did It,” a common strategy of rapists and murderers.

Blood spatter on Meredith’s clothing proves that she was dressed when murdered.

Guede was extradited to Italy on December 6, 2007 and five months later he changed his story, implicating first Raffaele, then Amanda.  Public Minister Giuliano Mignini commented that Guede had been “most helpful.”

Meredith was a sweet, young girl who died at the hands of a criminal with one too many Get Out of Jail Free cards.  A killer who would be swept under the rug by the Perugian criminal justice system while her innocent friends were framed.

Witty and beautiful was how family and friends described the girl with the dazzling smile, an exotic beauty that blended the best of Anglo-Saxon and Indian cultures.  A keen intelligence, a girl well known for her kindness and her diligence. 

She was born and raised in Croydon, south London. Much loved by her parents, John and Arline Kercher, and her siblings, John Jr., Lyle and Stephanie.  Hundreds attended as Meredith was laid to rest in her hometown on December 14, 2007.  Lyle delivered the eulogy and Stephanie read a poem she had written for her baby sister.  Good natured laughter rippled through the pews as dozens of University of Leeds students remembered this delightful girl.

Because Kercher’s grief was so profound and the world believed that their kids were murderers, it was impossible for Amanda and Raffaele’s families to reach out in those first few months.  They hoped that “it would soon be straightened out” and their condolences would be kindly received, but nearly four years have gone by and the courtroom drama continues.  They have reached out through the press, but there really is no closure for anyone until the court corrects the mistakes and releases the innocent students.

Despite their own trials, concern for the Kercher’s is never far from the thoughts of the Knox and Sollecito families and they will remember Meredith, long after the tabloids forget her, as a precious daughter, not a murder victim.

We hope that with the current appeal, the court will correct mistakes and release Meredith’s innocent friends.  Rudy Guede is serving his reduced 16-year prison sentence for her murder, but justice is tainted by the unfair incarceration of Raffaele and Amanda.

Their freedom would be true justice for Meredith Kercher.