Amanda Knox's story, with all its shocking twists and turns, has left the public riddled with questions. Did she? Didn't she? But whether you believe the American college student is innocent or guilty of the murder of which she's been convicted, there is one thing everyone can agree on: Her story has become an international media sensation.
While Amanda was studying abroad in Perugia, Italy, her roommate Meredith Kercher was found murdered. Today, Amanda is behind bars, sentenced to 26 years in an Italian prison for the crime, but her parents say the stories in the media couldn't be further from the truth.
Amanda Knox moved to Perugia, Italy, to study abroad in 2007. She lived with three roommates—two Italians and one British exchange student, 21-year-old Meredith Kercher. On November 2, two months after Amanda moved in, Meredith's nearly naked and bloodied body was discovered under a bedspread in her bedroom. She'd been beaten, raped and tortured.
The Italian police say that as they began their investigation, they noticed Amanda was behaving bizarrely. She was hugging and kissing her boyfriend of two weeks, Raffaele Sollecito, outside the bedroom where Meredith's dead body was found and reportedly performed cartwheels and splits at the police headquarters where her boyfriend was being questioned.
Over the course of the investigation, Amanda's own recollection of the events on the night of Meredith's murder changed. First, Amanda said she was at Raffaele's house. Later, during an all-night interrogation with no attorney present, Amanda said she had a vision of being inside the house at the time of the murder and may have heard Meredith scream. She identified the killer as Patrick Lumumba, her boss at a local bar.
Later, Amanda retracted those statements, saying they had been coerced.
Eventually, police arrested Amanda, Raffaele and Patrick. Prosecutors claimed the murder was a result of a satanic, drug-fueled sex game turned violent and deadly. Just after that theory made international headlines, a video of Amanda and her boyfriend buying underwear a day after the murder was released. Overnight, Amanda became known as "the girl with the angel face and ice-cold eyes."
As the story continued to unravel, Amanda's boss, Patrick, turned out to have an air-tight alibi. He was released from custody, and police set their sites instead on a drifter and alleged drug dealer, Rudy Guede. Forensic tests found his DNA inside Meredith's body and in her bedroom.
Guede was found guilty of murder and sentenced to 30 years in prison. Later, he appealed the decision and a judge reduced his sentence to 16 years.
Amanda's trial began in January 2009. The opposing counsels painted two very different pictures of the accused American. The prosecutor argued that a knife found in Raffaele's apartment had Amanda's DNA on the handle and Meredith's DNA on the blade. He said that Raffaele's DNA was found on Meredith's bra clasp, fueling the sex game theory. In the bathroom that Amanda and Meredith shared, police found a mix of Meredith's blood with Amanda's DNA.
The defense was up next. Amanda's attorney convinced the judge to throw out her initial statements, and a forensic expert testified that knife was too large and could not have made some of the wounds on Meredith's neck. The defense also argued the DNA levels on the knife were too low to be accurately measured and that the crime scene had been contaminated by careless police work.
After deliberating for 11 hours, two judges and six jurors found Amanda and Raffaele guilty of murder, sexual assault, staging a break-in and carrying a knife. Amanda was sentenced to 26 years in prison, and Raffaele was sentenced to 25 years.
While Amanda's parents, Edda Mellas and Curt Knox, say that Meredith's death was a terrible tragedy, they also say their daughter's story has yet to be told. That story starts with Amanda's supposed bizarre behavior in the days following Meredith's murder. "If you know Amanda, she's shocked. This is not a smiling girl," Edda says, referring to video of Amanda hugging her boyfriend outside the house where Meredith was murdered. "They're not making out. He's rubbing her back and comforting her. She was just shocked. She was devastated."
Edda says Amanda's behavior at police headquarters, allegedly turning cartwheels and doing splits, was another misrepresentation. "She had been sitting there for hours doing homework, and she got up to stretch. She was getting cramped, and the officers came in—they were being really friendly—and they said, 'Oh, you seem pretty flexible,' and she said, 'Yes , I was a gymnast.'" Edda says the officers asked her if she could still do any gymnastics, and Amanda said yes and went into a split. "That was it. It was lost in translation."
As to why Amanda changed her version of what happened on the night of the murder, Edda says that wasn't really the case. "She always, in all of her statements, maintained the bottom line was: 'I don't know what's true anymore, but I do know that I did not have anything to do with the murder of my friend,'" she says.
Edda also says that while the Italian police other conversations and phone calls, they did not tape the overnight interrogation.
Amanda's father says that the evidence in the case points to Guede as Meredith's killer. "His evidence is all over the place. It's on Meredith, in Meredith. Fingerprints, palm prints, footprints," Curt says. "If you take a look at Amanda, there is not a fingerprint. No sweat stain, no blood, not a hair. Nothing in her room whatsoever."
Curt says the only piece of evidence that ties Raffaele to the crime is a bra clasp. "A speck of DNA to which that particular bra clasp was photographed on November 2," he says. "It was picked up 47 days later after the crime scene had been released by the scientific police, and it was probably 5 or 6 feet across the room underneath a rug. So with people going in and out, there's an extreme possibility of contamination."
Amanda's parents divorced when she was only 3 years old, but they have joined forces in the fight to free Amanda. They both say that when visiting Amanda in prison or hearing her during their weekly phone call, she has good days and bad days. "A good day, she comes out very bubbly in the visitation room," he says. "It's different over there. You get to hold her, hug her. And you sit across the table and you talk and you listen about what she's doing, how she's passing her time."
Despite her sentence, Amanda is still enrolled in school at the University of Washington, doing assignments for German and Italian studies from prison. "It keeps the light on at the end of the tunnel, that this is not wasted time for her as she's working toward her graduation of college, because she's going to get out of there," Curt says. "She's absolutely innocent. You go through a trial by media versus a trial inside the courtroom. Inside the courtroom, there is not the evidence to come up with a guilty verdict. It is so far past that to where she should be [found] innocent.'"
Curt says he believes Amanda was tried in the court of public opinion instead of getting a fair shot. "It's a situation in Italy where jurors are not sequestered. There was this little character assassination during the first year to where they literally created this person that didn't exist that they needed, and the judge, the jury, all got to watch that, all got to read it, all got to listen to it on the radio," he says. "There's no bias checking."
Amanda's attorney, Theodore Simon, says there's no question that Amanda's was a wrongful conviction. "You just heard Curt speak about the lack of evidence in the case—it's both profound and compelling," he says. "You've already portrayed how horrific this murder scene was and it was very tragic and terrible. But there was no hair, no fiber, no footprint, no shoe print, no hand print, no palm print, no fingerprint, no saliva, no sweat, no cells, no blood, no DNA of Amanda Knox in the room where [Meredith] was found or on her body. That's virtually impossible to have occurred in this type of case."
Though police say Amanda wrongfully accused Patrick Lumumba of the crime, her parents say this is another issue of her words being lost in translation. "There was a text message on her phone and his phone says ,'See you later.' He had called her and told her she didn't have to work and she called back saying, 'Thanks, see you later.' In the U.S., that means, 'See you tomorrow, next week, whenever.' They took that to mean, again, lost in translation, literally you're meeting up with him later today in a few hours to commit this horrible crime," Edda says. "So they kept holding that message up in front of her face and yelling at her and saying: 'We know you were meeting with him. We know he was involved.' It was the police that prompted all of that."
Amanda has three younger sisters, Deanna, Ashley and Delaney. Deanna, the second-oldest, says her life has been put on hold since Amanda's arrest. "We're all just in a waiting period, waiting for her to come home. I stopped going to college; I work full-time. I visit Ashley and Delaney and take care of my parents as much as possible," she says. "[College] was too much at the time. When this whole thing started, I had media outside of my dorm room. I had to be escorted to my classes."
Deanna says she has be strong and keep her feelings inside for the sake of her family. "I know the worst thing is when Amanda cries, I just see my mom and my aunts and my dad's and my whole family's eyes fill with tears, and I don't want them to be crying because of me," she says.
Curt says that because he spends so much time in Italy, he isn't always aware of what the other girls are going through. "I know Deanna has done a fantastic job keeping them up, and hopefully this will all be done soon and she'll get to come home and we'll get to carry on our lives," he says.
Amanda calls home every Saturday morning, and all of her family and friends gather at Edda's house to be there for the call. In the most recent phone call, Edda says Amanda sounded okay. "We asked her if there was anything she wanted to say and she goes, 'See if you can thank all the people that have written me or donated money to the defense fund or whatever,' because she can't. She doesn't have enough time to write everybody back and she's getting hundreds of letters from people, and she wanted to find a way to thank them," Edda says.
Edda and Curt both say the hardest moments for them is trying to explain to Amanda why she is in this position. On one particular day, Curt says he held Amanda for 45 minutes while she cried. "I think it was one of those days [where Amanda was wondering]: 'Why is this happening to me? I haven't done anything. I've told the truth,'" Edda says. 'And how do you explain that to her? That mistakes happen and she's in the middle of this massive mistake and that it will get fixed and trying to make sure she she knows that she will get out of there.'"
Edda and Curt say neither of them has spoken to the family of Meredith Kercher. "During interviews, we've tried to express our condolences and the sorrow for the loss of their daughter. I mean, they've experienced the worst phone call a parent could ever have. We still have a chance with Amanda. They don't with their daughter, and until they know that Amanda had nothing to do with it, I don't know how I would feel as a parent receiving that type of call," Curt says.
Amanda's parents are now looking to the future and trying to plan how they will free their daughter. They are hoping that a document from the jury on why they found her guilty will help their cause. "We're waiting for this motivation document, which is due out possibly as early as next week," Curt says. "From there, that will allow us to draft the appeal and approach how we're going to go about it."
On the day that Amanda Knox was sentenced, Meredith Kercher's brother, Lyle, made this statement: "Ultimately, we are pleased with the decision, pleased that we've got a decision, but it's not a time for celebration. At the end of the day, we're all gathered here because our sister was brutally murdered and taken away from us."