Breaking News: The Murder of Meredith Kercher

Date Published 11.06.07
All signs pointed to an intruder. Her bedroom window was smashed. She lay under her duvet, her t-shirt half-pulled up, as if during a struggle. Her throat had been cut. Blood was found on the broken window, possibly left there by the killer as he escaped. Later, two of her cell phones would be found discarded in a nearby garden. Someone had broken in, done great violence, and then run.

Meredith Kercher, 21, was living in Perugia, a small town in central Italy, for the school year; she was a student at the University of Leeds, in Britain. This was her year abroad. In pictures Meredith is dark-haired and pretty; she’s always smiling. Friends describe her as funny, popular and kind. She was known as someone with good judgment. No questionable romances or violent exes troubled her. Meredith had come to Italy to learn a new language and soak up the culture, but it appeared she crossed paths with a brutal intruder instead.

Meredith Kercher

Comments from those in Meredith's inner circle in Perugia supported the random intruder theory. She shared a house with three female roommates, two Italians and an American. The American, a 20-year-old University of Washington student named Amanda Knox, was the one who discovered Meredith's body last Friday. Amanda was with her boyfriend, an Italian student named Raffaele Sollecito, 24. Raffaele described the scene to the Sunday Mirror:
"I couldn't believe what I was seeing," he said. "It was hard to tell it was Meredith at first but Amanda started crying and screaming. I dragged her away because I didn't want her to see it, it was so horrible. It seems her killer came through the window because it was smashed and there was glass all over the place. It was so sinister because other parts of the house were just as normal."
But a closer examination of the crime scene soon revealed problems with the break-in theory. A trail of blood led to the bathroom, where it appeared the killer had taken time to wash up. And there was a bloody shoeprint from a small-sized shoe, indicating a woman might be involved. Police found fingerprints on Meredith’s two cell phones. They checked calls made and received. They asked questions, and listened carefully as stories fell apart.

Yesterday police detained and arrested Amanda Knox, Rafaelle Sollecito, and a local bar owner and Congolese national named Patrick Diya Lumumba, 37, for suspicion of involvement in Meredith’s murder. The motive? A sex game gone awry: Meredith refused to have group sex with them.

Amanda Knox

The allegations shock everyone who knows the suspects. Lumumba has lived in Perugia for more than a decade. Friends describe him as gentle and quiet. A bar owner, he’s well known among the young foreign students. That appears to be his connection to Amanda: on her MySpace page she refers to working at a bar for a man from Congo named Patrick.

A poster on a Facebook page created in Meredith's memory left this comment about Lumumba:
I can't believe Patrick Lumumba is a suspect. I remember him, he was a DJ back in 1995-1996 when I was a student in Perugia! Shocking!! RIP Meredith XXXXXXX
Lumumba was seen handing out flyers for a candlelight vigil being held in Meredith's honor as recently as Monday.

Patrick Lumumba and Rafaelle Sollecito

Amanda's boyfriend Rafaelle, a computer science student, apparently comes from a wealthy family in southern Italy. He is most often described as ”bookish” and “unassuming.” His family refuses to believe the allegations --- an aunt describes him as a model human being who wouldn't hurt a fly.

The most puzzling suspect by far is Amanda Knox, who appears like a normal fresh-faced college junior on her MySpace page. She says she enjoys yoga and drinking tea. Two of her favorite movies are The Princess Bride and Finding Nemo. She lists “my mom” as her hero.

But further examination reveals an undercurrent of strangeness. A picture of what appears to be a middle-aged man without his shirt on appears in the pictures she’s uploaded. The caption says “Frederico.” On the accompanying blog Amanda mentions meeting “Frederico” on a train from Milan to Florence. She was traveling with her teenage sister at the time. She says Frederico, who didn’t speak English, bought her and her sister dinner in Florence; then, when her sister went to bed, Amanda and Frederico “smoked up” together and hung out. Presumably she means marijuana, and judging from the picture, clothes came off at some point.

A male friend of Amanda’s makes a comment under the “Frederico” picture:
Amanda I always knew you were weird, but, damn really?
One picture shows Amanda clad in black posing seductively. “This is a body shot for an audition,” she writes underneath, but it’s unclear exactly what kind of audition she means. Two writing samples included on Amanda’ s MySpace page eerily foreshadow Meredith's murder. A short story called “Baby Brother” involves two brothers, a date rape drug and the sexual attack of a woman. The second story, called “The Model,” seems to be about surveillance and some sort of dark sexual secret. It's possible Amanda herself was once a victim of sexual abuse, and that's why she chose the subject to write about; the victim turned abuser is not an unusual trajectory.

A search of “Foxyknoxy03,” reveals a connection to someone using “666amanda” on YouTube. It's an interesting choice of numbers in light of recent events.

Amanda Knox

What role Amanda had in the murder of Meredith Kercher remains to be seen. It’s interesting to note that in her blog she refers to her two other roommates, even including pictures of them, but there’s no mention of Meredith. Was there some kind of tension that came to a head in the early morning hours Friday? From comments made about both victim and suspect, it appears Meredith may have been more clean-living and mainstream, while Amanda prided herself on her lack of inhibition.

Reading an old blog entry with the knowledge of what lies ahead for the writer is always an odd experience. On October 15 Amanda had no idea she would one day be a prisoner in an Italian jail. She updated her MySpace blog with a post about life in Perugia. The most disconcerting thing is how like a normal 20-year-old college student she sounds -- philosophical, carefree, a little dreamy:
I really like the italian lifestyle. everything shuts down in the middle of the day so everyone can have a 3 hour lunch break. i love it. i wish we had that in america. i think americans work to much and dont live. Having that time in the middle of the day reminds you that life really isnt all about going to work and making money. its about who you are and what you choose to do and who you choose to spend your time with.

The Feed

RT @emilynussbaum: The artful @hodgman's straightforward case for Hillary:
@Twaikuer @pattonoswalt @daveanthony Know what he does believe in? PAC $. Took 10K from HRC pac 2006. That means he's in her pocket.#BSLogic
@Twaikuer @pattonoswalt @daveanthony Good one. Unfortunately Bernie on record as not believing in charity.
@johnlevenstein Thanks for asking, btw. That's the kind of elevated discourse missing lately. A lot of mud slinging. #I'mNotAboveItEither
@johnlevenstein Can't convey it all thru Twitter but yes, she has flaws. Too poll-driven, burned needed bridges, trouble owning mistakes.