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Video: Family defends murder suspect

TODAY contributor
updated 7/31/2008 9:35:26 AM ET 2008-07-31T13:35:26

The family of a 21-year-old American college student who has been held with two others in Italy for nine months on suspicion of the grisly murder of her roommate have no choice but to hope that the Italian justice system will find that she is innocent — and not the sex-crazed young woman the international media have portrayed her to be.

“We really have no choice. We have to trust their legal system and that they are going to get it right,” Curt Knox, the father of Amanda Knox, told TODAY’s Meredith Vieira Thursday in New York.

“Her lawyers are fairly confident,” added Knox’s mother, Edda Mellas, who was also on the show along with Amanda’s sister, Deanna. “Look, she wasn’t there, the evidence is not there, and it will work out in the end.”

Meredith Kercher, a 21-year-old British woman who was one of Knox’s three roommates in Perugia, Italy, was found dead in her room on Nov. 2, 2007. She was semi-nude and her throat had been slashed.

Conflicting stories
Amanda Knox was 20 at the time, a University of Washington student from Seattle studying in Italy. She told police initially that she had been out all night with her Italian boyfriend, 24-year-old Raffaele Sollecito, the son of a prosperous physician.

But Knox subsequently was reported to have said that she was in the apartment that night, and heard Kercher screaming so loudly that Knox had to cover her ears. Police say she said she was confused because she had taken hashish.

Knox now says that what the police have called a confession was really just her responding to scenarios they presented while questioning her. She maintains that she and Sollecito, who is also being held in jail, spent the night at his apartment.

It is a parents’ nightmare. “It’s actually very tough, knowing that she’s innocent,” Curt Knox said. “The whole description of the situation has just been extremely rough.”

Two weeks ago, Italian prosecutors recommended that Knox and Sollecito be indicted and tried for the murder along with a third suspect also in custody, former basketball player Rudy Hermann Guede, 20. Guede was arrested in Germany two weeks after the killing after having fled Italy. He has admitted having consensual sex that night with Kercher, but claims that another, unnamed male, is the real killer.

‘Foxy Knoxy’
The case made headlines all over Italy. The British media, culling material from Knox’s MySpace page and the Internet, portrayed her as a party animal with a promiscuous sex life. They jumped on a nickname she got as a kid because of the way she played soccer — “Foxy Knoxy” — as evidence of her wild ways. Newspapers, taking their lead from investigators, portrayed the murder as a group sex scene gone bad.

The lurid stories written about Knox, who turned 21 in prison last week, have doubled her family’s pain.

From left, Amanda Knox's sister, Deanna Knox; her mother, Edda Mellas; and her father, Curt Knox.
“The fact that she’s there and she’s innocent is bad enough, but that just made it twice as bad to see all of that come out and none of it was really her,” Mellas said of her daughter. “People who really know her well were all shocked by what was said.”

Mellas and Curt Knox are divorced and have remarried, but they have taken turns going to Italy so that one of them is always there to visit their daughter. Knowing that she would be appearing on TODAY, Mellas visited Amanda on Tuesday and asked her daughter what she would want Americans to know about her.

“She wanted people to know she was innocent and her and Meredith [Kercher] were good friends and they had a great time,” Mellas said. “Trying to describe herself, she said, ‘I’m somebody who loves yoga and rock climbing, and chai tea and Indian food are my favorites. And I’d rather be in the mountains than on the beach.’ That [was] a quick description of herself.”

Prison recording
Just after Knox was arrested, she and her parents talked about the murder during their prison visits, not realizing they were being recorded. Comments they made were leaked to the press, but, Mellas maintained, they were taken out of context.

“Her story has always been the same: ‘I was at Raffaele’s house. I came back the next morning,’ ” Mellas said. “That has always stayed constant.”

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Curt Knox said his daughter spends her time in jail writing letters to friends in Seattle and studying five foreign languages — Italian, German, Russian, Chinese and French. She also speaks Japanese and Latin, he said.

Slideshow: Murder in Italy Vieira said that Amanda Knox’s friends have described her as “book smart, but not street smart.” Her sister Deanna smiled at that description, saying, “That’s the definition of Amanda. Amanda is trusting in people.”

Deanna also said that her sister trusted the police when, immediately after the discovery of Kercher’s body, they told her they were trying to discover what had happened. She followed their lead in theorizing what might have happened.

“She was trying to help them out in the very beginning … I think she trusted the police too much,” Deanna Knox said. “It makes me sad. I hope I can trust the justice system over there.”

Vieira asked Deanna if there is anything else the public should know about her sister.

“Amanda’s amazing,” Deanna Knox said. “She’s the best person I know. She’s caring and nice, and I just want her home.”

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