A Long Way From Home

48 Hours Investigates The U.S. Student Jailed In Italy For Her Roommate's Murder

Produced by Joe Halderman, Douglas Longhini, and Chris Young

Amanda Knox, a 20-year-old honors student from the University of Washington, followed her dream when she moved to Perugia, Italy, to study abroad and learn Italian. But that dream turned into a nightmare when just weeks after Amanda's arrival her roommate was found murdered.

Within days of the November 2007 murder, Amanda and her boyfriend were arrested as suspects in the killing and found themselves at the center of a media frenzy.

Do Italian investigators have a solid case against Amanda, as they claim? Or is she being "railroaded" - as one American private investigator put in - in a blind pursuit of justice?

Growing up in Seattle, Wash., Amanda Knox was an all-American girl. She excelled in athletics and academics, as her father Curt remembers: "Dean's list in high school, dean's list in college, soccer player since she's been five…all the way to the premiere level."

Amanda's parents, Curt Knox and Edda Mellas, divorced when she was three, but family bonds remained tight. "She loves her family. She talks about that in her blogs, and in her MySpace. That what's most important to her is her family, her close friends," Edda tells correspondent Peter Van Sant.

After graduating with honors from an elite Jesuit high school, Amanda went on to the University of Washington where she discovered her passion. "She loved going to other cultures and learning about them. And she's really drawn to languages. She really knew she wanted to study abroad," Edda explains.

Amanda worked three jobs to get to Perugia, a medieval hill town north of Rome. She rented a room in a house and began taking classes.

Amanda's years of dedicated study and hard work were paying off. Just a few weeks after arriving in Perugia, she e-mailed some of her friends back home, writing "I'm actually at one of my happiest places right now."

Amanda's good fortune also included a new romance. She'd met a young, handsome Italian engineering student named Raffaele Sollecito, the 23-year-old son of a doctor from Southern Italy.

Amanda had three roommates: two Italian girls and Meredith Kercher, a 20-year-old student from England.

Amanda even got a job in a local bar. "She told me she must work because she need the money," says bar owner Patrick Lumumba, who hired her. Lumumba is well known around town for his music and generous spirit.

Asked what he thought when he first saw Amanda, Lumumba tells Van Sant, "Good person…and friendly."

But just six weeks into Amanda's Italian adventure, everything changed. It was Nov. 2, 2007.

"I got a phone call early in the morning and it was Amanda. And the first thing she said was, 'I'm at home and I'm all right. But, I think somebody's been in my house," Edda remembers.

Amanda told her mother she had spent the night with Raffaele. That morning, when she came home to take a shower and change clothes, she found the front door was open. No one was home.

"When she got out of the shower she noticed some blood. She thought maybe somebody had gotten injured and left quickly and that's why the door was open," Edda explains.

Amanda started phoning her roommates; she found the Italian girls, but according to Edda couldn't track down Meredith, even after calling her several times.

Asked how she learned that something terrible had happened in that house, Edda says, "She called me back and told me that the police had come. Because one of the things she said was 'We can't find Meredith and her door is locked.'"

Two officers arrived at the house to investigate and found Amanda and Raffaele standing outside.

"Police enter the house, start searching it," explains Paolo Sfriso, an Italian investigator who 48 Hours hired to examine this case. "Meredith's door is locked. They knock on the door, nobody answers. Nobody knows where she is. They decide to break in her door."

Inside, there was blood everywhere. And on the floor, covered by the blanket from her bed, was Meredith's body.

The last time anyone had seen Meredith alive was 9 p.m. the night before, when she walked home alone after leaving friends.

  • CBSNews

More From 48 Hours