A Deadly Year in Italy Exchange Student Murder Trial to Begin

Part 2: 'Attracted to Violence'

The police found a kitchen knife in Sollecito's apartment with traces of the DNA of Knox and Kercher on the handle. The medical examiners wrote, very carefully, that the knife was "incompatible" with the murder weapon. But the police also found the imprint of a Nike athletic shoe that could have belonged to Sollecito in the blood in Kercher's room. It also turned out that Knox's and Sollecito's computers and mobile phones had been switched off at the time of the murder.

Knox was questioned again, this time for several hours, without an attorney and without an interpreter. Then she said: "C'ero" -- I was there, at the time and scene of the crime. Yes, she said, she had heard screams coming from Kercher's room, but she had covered her ears. She told police it was a black man -- Patrick L., the owner of a bar called Le Chic, where she occasionally worked as a barmaid. The 38-year-old, a Reggae musician known around the city, was locked up on murder charges on Nov. 5, 2007, together with Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito.

But unlike Knox and Sollecito, Patrick L. had an alibi and was released after 10 days.

Knox lied, but why? She claimed police had pressured her and insisted she was innocent.

Since then, she has claimed that she smoked marijuana with Sollecito that night, and that the two showered together. But Sollecito now claims that Knox left his apartment at about 9 p.m. Their statements are now contradictory, and they are no longer a couple.

The tape from a video surveillance camera in the parking lot across the street shows that Knox entered the building shortly before the murder. But traces of Sollecito's DNA were also found on the victim's bra. A neighbor claims that she heard a terrible scream, followed by the steps of people running away. Another witness has testified that he saw Knox near the building, together with Sollecito and another man.

That man was soon identified. Someone had forgotten to flush the toilet in the bathroom of Kercher's apartment. This would prove to be disastrous for Rudy Guede, a minor drug dealer, now 22, who came to Perugia from the Ivory Coast as a child. His DNA was found in the toilet bowl. Traces of sperm on the body of the victim also matched his DNA. On Nov. 20, Guede was arrested at the train station in the western German city of Koblenz. He knew Kercher and Knox from the clubs and had been to their apartment once or twice. He claimed that he had had a hooked up with Kercher, and that he was sitting on the toilet when the murder happened.

Guede said that the murderer was an Italian, and that when he came out of the bathroom with his trousers still undone, the Italian injured him with a knife and called out: "Negro found, guilty found." Guede claimed he then ran out of the house to get help. He insisted he wasn't the murderer.

Guede knew he didn't stand a chance in court, even if the medical examiners were unable to determine conclusively that the victim was raped. His lawyers advised him to agree to a "fast-track" trial to avoid a life sentence. In Italian jurisprudence a life sentence can in fact be just that. Guede agreed. On Oct. 29, 2008, he was sentenced, in a trial closed to the public, to 30 years in prison for murder and the use of sexual violence. It was a trial based on circumstantial evidence. To this day, Guede says that he did not kill Kercher.

"She falls to the ground, tastes the blood on her mouth and swallows it. She could no longer move her lower jaw, and it felt as if someone were moving a blade in front of the left side of her face." This could have been a description of the way Meredith Kercher died, but instead these are sentences from Knox's diary. As an exercise in a creative writing class, she imagined how two brothers, high on drugs, raped and stabbed a girl.

Why was Kercher killed? Was it an accident, a sexual game gone out of control? Was it revenge, a Satanic act, a crime stemming from excessive drug use, as in the case of the Sharon Tate murder in 1969? The police analyzed the hard drives of Sollecito's and Knox's computers, studied their Internet blogs and leafed through Sollecito's manga comics collection. According to the investigation files, Sollecito has a penchant for violent pornography and horror films, as well as knives and the morbid punk music of Marilyn Manson. He seemed withdrawn and was deeply affected by the death of his mother.

But these things are perfectly normal. His regular use of marijuana was also not unusual. Most of the students in Perugia smoke pot when they socialize.

On his Facebook and MySpace pages, Sollecito describes himself as "honest, peaceful, sweet, but sometimes completely crazy." Knox calls herself "Foxy Knoxy" and appears in a video in which she is drunk, as well as in a photo depicting her holding a toy weapon.

But in the free for all that is cyberspace, that doesn't even seem alarming. Nevertheless, when the magistrate extended the pretrial detention at an arraignment hearing shortly before Christmas 2007, he described Knox as having "a multilayered personality, naive and cunning at the same time," and Sollecito as being "attracted to violence," immature and uninhibited. His description reflected the age-old bias against unrestrained young people left to their own devices.

Amanda Knox's father, Curt Knox, is a controller at the Macy's department store chain, and his wife is a teacher in Seattle. "My daughter is 100 percent innocent," he says. Knox's parents have been traveling back and forth between Seattle and Perugia for the past year. They used to love Italy, her mother says.

All requests to have the pretrial detention changed to house arrest were denied. For Paolo Micheli, the examining magistrate, there is no doubt that Knox, Sollecito and Guede were at the scene of the crime together, presumably to force Kercher to participate in a sexual game. Micheli believes that the men held her down while Knox applied the knife. These are the allegations that will be raised in the second trial.

After the crime was committed, Micheli alleges, the three tried to portray the murder as the result of a burglary, cleaned the apartment and broke a window. The DNA evidence found at the scene, "logic and common sense" are sufficient evidence, writes the judge. He believes that there is a risk that Knox will attempt to flee because of her American citizenship. He is also convinced, as he writes in his 17-page grounds for rejecting the requests to change the pretrial detention to house arrest that she is "prepared to kill again."

Knox is being held in the Capanne provincial prison. She has no explanation for the evidence against her. "I know that I didn't kill Meredith," she says.

She tries to believe that nothing has changed. She spends her time reading, singing and learning languages. She already speaks Italian fluently. And she writes in her diary. Her words read like attempts to find a story that will make everyone happy. She writes: "The truth is that I no longer know what the truth is."

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

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