In late 2007, the eyes of the world were drawn to the Italian city of Perugia for the gruesome murder of a foreign exchange student and twisted tales of sex games gone wrong that emerged from its picturesque facade of steep mountain streets and centuries-old buildings.
Meredith Kercher, a 21-year-old from Surrey, England, had been sexually assaulted and stabbed to death, with her 20-year-old American roommate, Amanda Knox, and Knox’s boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, emerging as primary suspects. Although all conclusive physical evidence pointed elsewhere, Italian prosecutors focused on the alleged wrongdoings of the University of Washington student, whose MySpace nickname of “Foxy Knoxy” spawned countless stories of her being a promiscuous man-eater.
Knox and Sollecito were eventually acquitted, but only after they were twice convicted and spent years in jail over a nightmare of a case that covered the better part of a decade and failed to satisfy the families of both the accused and the victim.
September 20, 2007: Knox moves into her Perugia cottage
The cottage, already occupied by Kercher and two Italian women in the upstairs apartment (and four male students in the one below), is said to be in a “bad neighborhood,” with drug dealers lingering at the nearby basketball court.
October 25, 2007: Knox meets Sollecito at a classical music concert
Following Kercher’s early departure, Knox begins talking to the shy, 23-year-old computer science student she described as an “Italian Harry Potter.” Sollecito later visits a bar called Le Chic, where Knox is working part-time as a bartender, setting their brief but intense relationship in motion.
November 2, 2007: Kercher’s body is discovered
After Knox returns to the cottage in the late morning to find her roommate’s door locked and an unflushed toilet in a bloody bathroom, Italian postal police break down the door to discover a semi-naked Kercher under a blanket, her throat slashed.
November 6, 2007: Knox, Sollecito and bar owner Diya “Patrick” Lumumba are arrested
Following a night of grueling interrogation, Knox signs a confession which she admits to being in another room of the cottage while her Le Chic boss, Lumumba, killed her roommate.
Along with the confession, Knox and Sollecito’s problems are complicated by their changing accounts of the night in question – at first they claimed they were together all night, then they said they were apart for a few hours, then they couldn’t remember – and the seemingly carefree attitude they displayed in the murder’s aftermath by going lingerie shopping.
November 15, 2007: An incriminating kitchen knife is reported to have been found at Sollecito’s home
The eight-inch knife has traces of Kercher’s DNA on the blade and Knox’s DNA on the handle. Sollecito later writes that he had once “accidentally pricked [Kercher’s] hand” while the three of them were cooking.
November 20, 2007: Rudy Guede is arrested
Guede, a 20-year-old student Perugia, is pulled from a train in Germany after investigators find his DNA on bloody prints at the crime scene and inside Kercher’s body. Guede says that he had consensual sex with the victim that night and that he was in the bathroom when an unidentified man entered and killed Kercher. Meanwhile, Lumumba is released from custody, though he remains a suspect.
January 10, 2008: Sollecito’s DNA is reported to have been found on Kercher’s bra clasp
The clasp, retrieved from Kercher’s room nearly seven weeks after the murder, bolsters the prosecution’s assertion that the suspects engaged in a dangerous sex game with the victim, though it also supports the defense’s criticisms of a sloppy investigation and contaminated crime scene.
October 28, 2008: Guede is sentenced to 30 years in prison; Knox and Sollecito are ordered to stand trial
Guede had elected to undergo a “fast-track” trial separate from the other defendants. That same day, a judge determines that there is enough evidence for Knox and Sollecito to stand full trial on murder charges.
January 16, 2009: The Kercher murder trial begins
After 14 months in jail, Knox and Sollecito appear in a Perugia court for the start of the murder trial. The presiding judge determines that the high-profile proceedings can be held with the media present, but no live television coverage.
June 12, 2009: Knox testifies in her defense
Taking the stand for the first time in the case, Knox testifies that she spent the night of the murder at her boyfriend’s home, where they smoked marijuana, made love and fell asleep. She also refutes the accusation that she and Kercher didn’t get along, and insists that she signed the confession that implicated Lumumba only because she was under intense pressure from the police.
November 18, 2009: Guede places Knox at the crime scene
The Knox-Sollecito trial nearing its end, Guede makes headlines during his separate appeal with a spontaneous statement in which he recounts Knox and Kercher getting into an argument before the latter’s killing by an unidentified man. Guede later sees his sentence reduced to 16 years.
December 4, 2009: Knox and Sollecito are convicted
At the conclusion of a trial that saw more than 50 hearings and dozens of witnesses called, the defendants are convicted of Kercher’s murder, with a teary Knox sentenced to 26 years and Sollecito receiving a 25-year sentence. Additionally, the two are ordered to pay more than $7 million to Kercher’s family, and Knox ordered to pay Lumumba around $60,000 for defamation.
June 27, 2011: The Appeal Begins
Knox and Sollecito’s appeal opens with Guede testifying against his former two co-defendants. He also denies a claim by another convict that Guede had confided to him that Knox and Sollecito were innocent.
July 25, 2011: Forensic experts call the evidence into question
Two court-appointed experts testify that the knife reportedly used in the attack carried no trace of blood and that there was no DNA on the bra clasp that police used to implicate Sollecito.
October 3, 2011: Knox and Sollecito’s convictions are overturned
An appellate court jury of six citizens and two judges overturn the convictions of Knox and Sollecito in Perugia. Knox, who had delivered a tearful statement in Italian earlier in the day, is overcome by emotion and assisted out of the court.
March 26, 2013: Italy’s highest court orders a new trial
Italy’s Court of Cassation reopens the case by overturning the acquittal. Knox, who had since returned to Seattle, Washington, and was set to release a book about her ordeal, decried such a ruling “when the prosecution’s theory of my involvement in Meredith’s murder has been repeatedly revealed to be completely unfounded and unfair.”
Sept 30, 2013: The re-trial begins
Three months after the Court of Cassation issues its reasoning that criticized the “deficiencies, contradictions and illogical” conclusions of the appeals court, a new trial opens in Florence without Knox and Sollecito present.
January 30, 2014: Knox and Sollecito are re-convicted of murder
Following 11 1/2 hours of deliberations, a jury convicts Knox and Sollecito for a second time, the judge tacking on two-and-a-half years to the former’s sentence. Sollecito is ordered to surrender his passport, while Knox, legally in Seattle, will not have to worry about extradition unless the ruling is upheld.
March 27, 2015: The convictions are again overturned
The Court of Cassation ends the long-running legal saga by overturning the convictions of Knox and Sollecito, save for the former’s defamation of Lumumba. Knox released a statement describing her as “tremendously relieved and grateful” for the outcome.
January 24, 2019: Italy is ordered to pay damages to Knox
While her legal problems were already resolved, the European Court of Human Rights adds icing to the victory cake by ordering Italy to pay Knox more than $20,000 in damages for the harsh interrogation she endured early in the investigation. “I am grateful for their wisdom in acknowledging the reality of false confessions, and the need to reform police interrogation methods,” Knox writes afterward in her blog.