Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Foxy Knoxy: The Study Abroad Murder
The verdict came in on December 4, 2009, on what has been termed “The Study Abroad Murder.” More than two-years after the murder, foreign exchange student from the United States, Amanda Knox  was convicted Friday in an Italian court of being the ring leader in a “sex game gone bad” that led to the brutal murder of her British roommate, Meredith Kercher , on the night of November 1, 2007. This case had nearly fell off of the American media’s radar until the “stunning” decision that sent Knox to prison for 26 years and her boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, to jail for 25 years. Meanwhile Knox has become a tabloid celebrity in Italy the likes of Paris Hilton, and beyond. Knox was voted “person of the year” in 2008 in an online poll by a major Italian T.V. station. Knox nudged out her second place opponent—Italian-born French first lady, Carla Bruni—to get the honors.
Kercher’s lifeless body had been found by Italian police under a duvet in her room at Via Della Pergola 7, in Perugia, Italy on November 2, 2007. Kercher was found partially clothed with her throat cut and with multiple signs of bruising to her neck and body. The pathologist’s report indicates that she was stabbed at some time between 9.30 p.m., and 11.30 p.m., on the night of November 1, 2007 (and because her carotid artery was not hit she suffered a long, agonizing two-hour death). Meredith’s door had been locked from the inside and the window in her room on the ground floor had been broken; which appeared to police to be where the killer had exited. All in all, it looked like a typical sex crime to police. But soon that would all change!
Knox and Sollecito both told police that she was at his flat the night of the murder, and that Knox did not leave until 10:00 a.m., the next morning. She claimed that she returned home, saw the blood in the bathroom, and thought that one of her roommates may have had a menstrual accident and had forgotten to clean up. She claimed that she was scared and rushed back to Sollecito’s house, but not before taking a shower. Sollecito accompanied her back to the cottage where the police arrived unexpectedly, as they had found both of Meredith’s cell phones in a nearby neighbor’s garden.
At the murder scene, police and media swarmed the house. Knox and Sollecito—who had been dating less than two-weeks—had been photographed by Italian media kissing and acting odd. Later at the police station, many people were brought down for questioning. Knox and Sollecito continued their strange behavior according to Pisco Alessi, owner of Merlin’s pub. Pisco said that Knox and Sollecito were laughing, joking, and kissing. “It just seemed completely wrong in that situation,” he said. Others questioned at police headquarters confirmed that they had seen Knox and Sollecito making faces, joking around, and passing notes to each other as well.
On November 5th police decided to bug Raffaele’s phone. That night they recorded a conversation that he had with his father about a flick-knife that he carried with him in which he said, “Well they have already questioned me and they didn’t find it on me, those stupid policemen.” From this police called in Sollecito for questioning the next night. Although she was not called-in by police, Knox tagged along for support. Suddenly, Sollecito had changed his story, claiming that Knox was with him only until 9:00 p.m., on the night of the murder. After police notified Knox of Sollecito’s change of heart she then changed her story. Knox provided police with a handwritten statement which would be the most damaging pieces of circumstantial evidence against her.
Key points in Knox’s statement:
“This is very strange, I know, but really what happened is as confusing to me as it is to everyone else.”
Knox starts off claiming that she was at Sollecito’s flat smoking marijuana, having sex, and “might even have fallen asleep.”
“The next thing I remember was waking up the morning of Friday November 2nd around 10am and I took a plastic bag to take back my dirty cloths to go back to my house.”
As she goes on, she begins to tell a different story of what might have happened in which she claims her boss, Patrick Lumumba, was the probably the murder. Lumumba is a (black male) Congolese immigrant who owned the nightclub (Le Chic) where Knox had been a waitress. According to this version of events Knox met Patrick Lumumba at around 9:00pm on the night of the murder at a basketball court in Piazza Grimana in Perugia and then went to her house. This is significant, because a homeless man later testified that he saw Knox and a black man on that very basketball court at that time.
“In my mind I saw Patrik in flashes of blurred images. I saw him near the basketball court. I saw him at my front door. I saw myself cowering in the kitchen with my hands over my ears because in my head I could hear Meredith screaming…these things seem unreal to me, like a dream, and I am unsure if they are real things that happened or are just dreams my head has made to try to answer the questions in my head and the questions I am being asked.”
Knox then does not rule out the possibility that there is evidence against her at the crime scene.
"The police have told me that they have hard evidence that places me at the house, my house, at the time of Meredith's murder. I don't know what proof they are talking about, but if this is true, it means I am very confused and my dreams must be real.”
Knox then acknowledges that her story seems far fetched and stands by both of her stories.
“I also know that the fact that I can't fully recall the events that I claim took place at Raffaele's home during the time that Meredith was murdered is incriminating. And I stand by my statements that I made last night about events that could have taken place in my home with Patrik, but I want to make very clear that these events seem more unreal to me that what I said before, that I stayed at Raffaele's house.”
Knox reaffirms that she is not sure what she was doing the night before the murder.
“I'm very confused at this time. My head is full of contrasting ideas and I know I can be frustrating to work with for this reason. But I also want to tell the truth as best I can. Everything I have said in regards to my involvement in Meredith's death, even though it is contrasting, are the best truth that I have been able to think.”
Knox reaffirms that she is not sure what she was doing the night before the murder, and that Patrick may have been the killer.
“In these flashbacks that I'm having, I see Patrik as the murderer, but the way the truth feels in my mind, there is no way for me to have known because I don't remember FOR SURE if I was at my house that night.”
Knox then asks herself a very puzzling question, which is basically saying that she was not there unless they have proof that she was, and if so then she doesn’t remember.
“Is the evidence proving my pressance [sic] at the time and place of the crime reliable? If so, what does this say about my memory? Is it reliable?”
Raffaele Sollecito made a similar statement that Knox was with him from 1:30p.m., that day until around 8:30p.m., at which time she left and did not return until the next morning. Police arrested Lumumba, and searched his club. No evidence was found there and no evidence of Lumumba was ever found at the crime scene. He was released from prison three-weeks later after police tracked down people who could confirm that he was at the club until late on the night of the murder. Lumumba was obviously upset and claimed that Knox had probably killed Kercher because he had recently fired her and hired Kercher in her place. He eventually had to close down his club after the incident, and he sued Knox in a civil suit for “slander.”
Police turned their investigation to Raffaele Sollecito’s flat in Corso Garibaldi. There, police found a pair of Sollecito’s sneakers that they claimed were a perfect match with one of the footprints left at the crime scene. They also found a flick-knife that they would later claim had Knox’s DNA on the handle and Kercher’s DNA on the tip.
After the arrest a massive journalistic manhunt had begun trying to dig-up some dirt on the couple. Not long after someone discovered Amanda Knox’s MySpace page, which was titled "Foxy Knoxy." The name caught on like wildfire! On her page she had a blog that featured a story entitled Baby Brother, which described a young woman who was drugged and raped, that concluded with two roommates in a bloody confrontation. Sollecito also had an internet blog which featured a photograph of him dressed as a mummy and wielding a meat cleaver; while promulgating his desire to try “extreme experiences.” Security footage from a local clothing shop named “Bubble” soon surfaced. Knox and Sollecito were seen kissing and purchased sexy under wear just one day after Kercher’s body was discovered. The shop keeper told journalists that he overheard the two talking and giggling about the wild sex that they were going to have.
A YouTube video of Knox drunk soon surfaced. The media jumped all over these new findings, and began painting “Foxy Knoxy” as a drug crazed, sex crazed party girl. More strange behavior would be exhibited by Knox when she was seen several times laughing and smiling in court, and in her prison diaries; which when analyzed by a British psychologist showed multiple signs of narcissistic behavior and psychopathic tendencies.
Six weeks after the murder forensic tests confirmed the fingerprints and DNA of a local drug dealer, Rudy Hermann Guede, all over the crime scene. Soon after, Guede was arrested in Germany and extradited back to Italy to face charges. Guede admitted being at the house during the murder. He said that Meredith invited him back to her apartment, they flirted, kissed, and then he went to the bathroom. It was there he claimed he heard Meredith screaming. Guede then said he opened the bathroom door and saw a man, an Italian man (Sollecito), standing there with a knife in his hand. Guede also told cops the Italian man said he would try to pin the murder on him (“The black guy”). Guede claims that he left the house and went to a nightclub with friends. The next day he took a train to Germany. Police didn’t believe a word that Guede was saying. Their only intention was to connect Guede to Knox and Sollecito.
Right on cue, an Albanian immigrant appeared at the police station and claimed that he had seen the suspects lurking by a trash compactor just 50 meters from the house the night before the murder. He claims that he ran his car lightly into the dumpster by accident and that Knox, Sollecito and Guede jumped out of the dumpster and threatened him with a knife.
More evidence soon began coming in against young Amanda Knox. Allegedly Knox had been seen by two men washing some clothes and a pair of shoes at a laundry mat in Via Fabretti with an African man the day after the murder. CCTV cameras in a car-park across the way from her house had captured images of Knox entering the cottage just before Meredith arrived that fatal night. There were also reports from neighbors living in the flats overlooking the cottage had seen two people running away from the house at the time of the murder.
A Local Supermarket assistant testified that on the morning of November 2, 2007, he witnessed Amanda Knox come into his store at 7:45 a.m., the morning after the murder, and purchase cleaning products. This put a big hole in Knox’s story, because her and her lawyers have always maintained that she had stayed at Raffaele’s apartment until 10:00a.m.
Although Knox later claimed at her trial that she and Meredith were close, more than one of Meredith’s friends testified that they didn’t like each other. They claimed that Meredith didn’t like Knox because she was promiscuous and frequently brought home strange Italian men. Meredith’s father confirmed this, saying that his daughter had voiced these concerns to him as well. One girl testified that Knox had bragged to them when she first arrived that she had sex with a stranger on the train ride in.
Rudy Guede later opted for a ‘fast-track’ trail and was sentenced to 30 years in prison for the murder of Meredith Kercher. Guede told police that Meredith had gone to her room and opened a drawer and noticed that some money was missing. According to Guede, Meredith believed that Knox had taken the money to buy drugs. This may have been the only thing that Guede was telling the truth about, because later it was found that Meredith had withdrawn €250 to pay for her rent due on the November 1st. However, her landlord never received the money. Coincidentally the sum of €215 was found on Amanda Knox when she was searched.
Police held Knox and Sollecito for one year, the maximum under Italian law, before bringing them to trial. One year after the trial began, hoards of people stood outside the courthouse after the guilty verdict and watched as Knox and Sollecito were escorted to prison in armored vehicles. Crowds ran after the vehicles chanting “Assassins” as the couple were escorted to prison.
The American media has repeatedly painted the verdict as being brought down on Amanda from a corrupt, unjust, and primitive Italian justice system and a lack of any real physical evidence. However, most of these arguments come without any knowledge or respect for the field of forensics; along with other biases. Amanda Knox’s parents have been on a tireless campaign over the last two years, proclaiming their daughters innocence and damning the Italian justice system. The American media has bought their story lock-stock-and-barrel, without questioning them or doing any research. There have been numerous stories using Knox’s friends and family to protest the verdict and claiming that the young, pretty, and Caucasian Knox was a model citizen who is incapable of participating in such a vicious act.
However, there are some that believe that the Italian media’s obsession with branding Knox as some spoiled American swinger girl is an attempt to use her as a target for their anti-American sentiments. The American media have really made themselves the bad guy here. This is one of the most gravely misreported cases in recent history. The American media has done no digging, consulted no Italians, and have repeatedly recycled discredited sources and those with a vested interest in the outcome. Moreover, they have revealed no understanding of how the Italian judicial process works, and often depict the Italian professionals with contempt. So far no-one has held them accountable for this.
So what really happened that fatal night? How did the murder occur and who was involved? Did Guede know Knox and Sollecito, and did they conspire and kill Meredith Kercher? What transpired during the trial, who testified, and most importantly, was there enough physical evidence to convict the couple? My new book attempts to detail, examine, and answer these questions and many others.
Study Abroad Murder: The Mystery of Via Della Pergola 7 is the chronological story of the brutal murder of Meredith Kercher. I walk you through the days leading up to the murder and take you inside the house at the time of the murder; and everything that transpired afterwards.
I feel that it is my obligation as a writer, forensic specialist, and journalist to bring the real story to the world from a unique perspective. With the combination of trial transcripts, judge’s reports, news articles, interviews, and a detailed forensic evaluation of the physical evidence, this book is designed to be the quintessential book on this case.
This story is far from over as Knox’s appeal is expected in the third quarter of 2010. Through all of this, let us not forget Meredith Kercher, who was taken away from us so violently and unnecessarily. Also, let us remember the Kercher family, who lost a beautiful, vibrant young daughter so tragically that night.