American Girl, Italian Nightmare
Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito are shown Friday, Nov. 2, 2007, embrace outside the rented house where 21-year-old British student Meredith Kercher was found dead in Perugia, Italy. (CBS)
Amanda Knox, the 21-year-old foreign exchange student from Seattle, is today the most recognizable and hated woman in Italy.
Amanda has been on trial in Perugia, Italy since early January 2009, charged, along with her Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, with the murder of Amanda's British roommate, Meredith Kercher.
The case with tabloid claims of kinky sex, drugs and even satanic rituals is a murder-mystery sensation in Europe.
"You can't believe the hysteria, the anger against Amanda Knox. All my Italian friends think she's guilty," author Doug Preston tells 48 Hours Mystery correspondent Peter Van Sant. "This is a case based on lies, superstition and crazy conspiracy theories. It's a tragedy."
But Italian prosecutor Giuliano Mignini says Amanda Knox is a killer who slashed her roommate's throat.
Amanda's parents, Edda Mellas and Curt Knox, can't believe their daughter could be accused of this horrible crime. Now divorced, they have joined forces to support and defend their daughter.
"Amanda is doing her best to try and stay upbeat in a horrible situation for her," says Mellas.
"We're going to find out in the long run that Amanda had nothing to do with this and will be set free," says Knox.
Amanda's troubles began innocently enough on the morning of Nov. 2, 2007, when police found two cells phones that belonged to Meredith and brought the phones back to a house Meredith and Amanda shared.
"They found Raffaele and Amanda there in a worried and disturbed state," British journalist Nick Pisa explains.
Amanda says she had been trying unsuccessfully to reach Meredith all morning and was worried.
"Meredith's bedroom door is locked," Pisa continues. "And the door is broken down and inside is Meredith's lifeless body."
Meredith, 22, is found lying in a pool of blood.
"There were 47 separate wounds -- not 47 knife wounds, but 47 bruises, scratches, cuts, injuries on Meredith's body," Pisa explains. "There was evidence that she was, quite literally, fighting for her life."
The murder shocked the medieval hill town of Perugia, which is a center for foreign students. Pisa says that Meredith could not have been a more innocent victim.
"She'd fallen in love with Italy. So that's basically why this girl from South London, the youngest of four children, decided to come and study in Perugia," he explains.
On Nov. 1, the night of the murder, Amanda was supposed to work at a bar called Le Chic, but her boss, Patrick Lumumba, told her not to come in. Amanda says she spent the night with her boyfriend, Raffaele, at his apartment. Meredith went to a friend's for dinner.
"The next thing you know is Meredith left her friend's apartment, she walked back to her house around 8:30, 9:00ish. And that was the last we know - or the last time we know - she was alive," says Pisa.
Since Amanda and Raffaele were at the house when Meredith's body was discovered, the two immediately became important witnesses.
"She said they had a lot of questions for her because she was the first one that had come back to the house. And she wanted to help," Mellas says.
Investigators asked the couple to come back to the house the following day.
"We saw these two youngsters embrace, caressing each other - kissing - whispering into each other's ears and the impression was of complicity," says Italian investigator and 48 Hours consultant Paulo Sfriso, who describes the sight captured on video as unsettling.
"There's the image of them, of the two of them, kissing outside the murder scene. One's expectation would be for them to be in shock, in tears," Sfriso says. "Instead, they seem to be sharing a little secret between the two of them."
Then, four days after the murder, prosecutor Giuliano Mignini brought Raffaele and Amanda in for questioning.
48 Hours exclusively obtained the tape of Amanda describing to an Italian judge what happened to her that night.
"I was very tired and I was also quiet stressed out. They kept asking me the same questions... At a certain point… the police began to be more aggressive with me."
Amanda repeatedly told police that she was with Raffaele in his apartment on the night of the murder.
"They called me a liar. Then they started pushing on me the idea that I must have seen something and forgotten about it."
Police confronted Amanda with a text message she had sent her boss, Patrick Lumumba, the night Meredith was killed. Her message: "See you later." Police believed the message implied Amanda was planning to meet Lumumba back at her house.
"…they kept saying, 'You said this thing to Patrick. We know that you left the house. We know.'"
Amanda claims the aggressive questioning turned physical.
"I was hit in the back of the head by one of the police officers who said she was trying to make me - help me remember the truth."
Listen to Amanda's full statement | Read her statement
The truth that night, after 14 hours of interrogation, was a written statement that police had Amanda sign: "I met Patrick…we went to my apartment. Patrick had sex with Meredith. I confusedly remember that he killed her."
Within hours, bar owner Patrick Lumumba, Raffaele Sollecito and Amanda Knox were arrested.
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