Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Murder in Umbria: The Murder of Meredith Kercher

Amanda Knox: Femme Fatale?

A teen-aged Amanda Knox with her dog
A teen-aged Amanda Knox with her dog

Amanda Knox grew up in West Seattle, a quiet, leafy and working-class part of the city along Puget Sound. When her parents divorced, her mother, Edda Mellas (who uses the last name of her second ex-husband) raised her. Mellas is a math teacher. Curt Knox, Amanda's father, is a finance executive at Macy's.

Always a good student, Amanda won a partial scholarship to Seattle Preparatory School, a prestigious Jesuit high school affiliated with Seattle University. She put up with a long commute, excelled in her coursework, and found time for drama and soccer. When she graduated, she went on to the University of Washington, where she studied Italian, German, Japanese and creative writing. One of her college short stories made it to her MySpace page: a tale of a young man accused of drugging and raping a woman.

Police interpreter Aida Colontane and Italian roommate Laura Mezzetti, have testified that they saw a red welt on Amanda's neck, possibly from a struggle with Meredith. Police found Amanda's fingerprints in Meredith's bloodied bedroom, as well as what may be her hand impression on Meredith's head. Forensics investigators identified fresh blood from both Knox and Kercher in their shared bathroom sink. Colantane testified that the Italian roommates told her the knives police found were from their own kitchen; she said this report made Amanda cry.

Officer Fabio D'Astolto and other witnesses testified that Amanda and Raffaele were unusually affectionate with each other during questioning, given the tense and unhappy circumstances. Monica Napoleoni, head of homicide, said the other friends questioned were visibly upset. Amanda was quiet and strangely calm; Raffaele was confused and agitated. Reports relate that a high-spirited Amanda did cartwheels and the splits at the station. D'Astolto testified that Knox paced and hit herself on the head when she was taken for fingerprinting.

Her supporters say that this is all circumstantial. Relatives, friends and old boyfriends all say that such a crime would be completely out of character for this kind, caring girl. Amanda dated a few boys during her first years at UW, but she settled on David Johnsrud (DJ), an old friend with whom she shared a love of rock climbing. Amanda and DJ decided to spend their junior year abroad apart, he in China, she in Italy. They officially broke up, but still talked to each other twice a week by Skype and maintained their friendship. He and other Seattleites describe her as warm and adventurous—and they insist she isn't capable of murder.

The prosecution and much of the English and Italian media think otherwise. The English tabloids bill Amanda as "Foxy Knoxy," a dangerously beguiling beauty who lured men into sadomasochistic chaos.

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