Sunday will mark one year since a 21-year-old British exchange student was found slashed to death in the apartment she shared with her angel-faced American roommate Amanda Knox in the picturesque Italian city of Perugia.
Knox, 21, her Italian boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, and Rudy Guede, from the Ivory Coast, were accused of the Nov. 2 rape and murder of Meredith Kercher. The case has generated months of lurid headlines around the world, and featured as much confusion as prurient curiosity. A Perugia judge offered the first big dose of clarity late Tuesday after all the contradicting defense alibis, allegations of police mishandling of evidence and a prosecutorial reconstruction more chilling than any tabloid account. After 12 hours of deliberation, Judge Paolo Micheli found Guede, 21, guilty of the murder and rape of Kercher, and ordered Knox and Sollecito to stand trial on the same charges.
Micheli sentenced Guede, who'd requested a fast-track trial, to 30 years in prison, a reduction granted by the abbreviated procedure after prosecutors had requested the maximum life sentence. The victim's parents, who had come from their home in Surrey, England, to follow the trial, were present at the closed-door reading of the verdict, and according to their lawyer were satisfied with the judge's decision.
The trial for Knox and Sollecito, 24, a doctor's son from the southeastern city of Bari, is expected to begin in December. Along with the enchanting cobblestone setting in this Umbrian hilltop city, it has been Knox's sweetly scrubbed looks that have generated much of the international attention in the case. Emerging in public earlier this month after nearly a year behind bars, the Seattle native appeared dressed in a simple white blouse. Led into the courtroom in handcuffs, photographers captured the mix of beauty and blankness on the lightly freckled visage of the former University of Washington student.
From the outset, Knox's sexual history has been widely reported, with prosecutors linking her past to their allegation that the victim was forced into an orgy. (Even last week, Italy's leading daily Corriere della Sera reported that Knox had to fend off lesbian advances of a fellow prisoner.) The prosecution's court-room reconstruction of how they believe the life of the popular British exchange student, known to her friends as "Mez", was brutally cut short. After trying to force Kercher to join in group sex with them and Knox, prosecutors say the men held the victim down, and it was the American who allegedly slit her roommate's throat.
All three defendants have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, and in separate accounts have blamed the attack on robbers. They have also accused the police of mishandling evidence, including the victim's bra, which they say had the defendants' DNA on it because it had been left on the crime scene for days after the murder. But each defendant's legal team has insinuated in court that the fellow defendants may be responsible for the murder. Guede reportedly chose the fast-track procedure because he feared the other two defendants had a pact against him.
Further drama will emerge during the trial of Knox and Sollecito. For now, we know that Guede has been convicted, and is likely to appeal, while the other two defendants have requested house arrest as they await their return to court. And you can be sure the photographers won't miss it.