New Hope for Exchange Student Held as Murder Suspect

Amanda Knox will most likely celebrate her 21st birthday on July 9 in a maximum security prison in Perugia, Italy, where she has been held the last seven months -- with no charges filed against her -- as a suspect in the gruesome murder of her 20-year-old British roommate Meredith Kercher.

Last November, Kercher was found with her throat slashed after what a prosecutor characterized as a drug-fueled sex orgy gone wrong.

For Amanda's parents, Edda Mellas and Curt Knox, it's been a living nightmare. Their oldest daughter Amanda, an honor student and athlete, now lives in a prison cell where she is only permitted two hours a day to exercise, a recent improvement, and two hours per week for precious family visits. The emotional toll on Amanda's family is unbearable.


In an interview with "Good Morning America's" Juju Chang, Mellas spoke of her visits with Amanda in prison.

"It's always wonderful to go in," Mellas said. "You get to hug her, hold her and talk to her. And leaving just rips your heart out every time, every time that you have to leave your innocent baby."

Amanda's sister, Deanna Knox, 19, sees the impact on their parents.

"My mom's crying is terrible. It's hard to watch because I know she hurts," she said. "It's difficult. I worry about my mom a lot. And I've never seen my dad (Curt Knox) cry -- until this."

She added: "We always have known from the beginning that they love us more than anything in the world - the Knox girls."

The "Knox girls" also includes Amanda and Deanna's two younger half-sisters, Ashley, 13, and Delaney, 9, who spoke to "Good Morning America" in their first television interview. The four sisters, who have always been close, look forward to letters from Amanda, written from prison.

In one to her youngest sister, Delaney, Amanda wrote: "I'm doing okay. I'm still studying and reading a lot, like always. I think all the time about going home. I daydream about you quite a bit because I miss you very much. I miss you and love you. Be good and gentle to everyone. Spread the love. I love you. Amanda."

Ashley and Delaney have not seen Amanda since last August when she took off to live her dream of studying abroad.

"We just want her out," Ashley Knox said.

New Developments in Case

For now, back in Seattle, Amanda's friends and family have made "Free Amanda and Raffaele" T-shirts, referring to Amanda's Italian former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, who is also in jail as a suspect. It seems to be all they can do as they continue to wait for a foreign legal system to run its course and determine Amanda's fate.

And it may have been Amanda's own confused words that led police to point to her as a prime suspect.

A few days after Kercher's body was found, Amanda was called to police headquarters for questioning as someone who knew Meredith, not a suspect. She had told police from the beginning that she was with Sollecito, and slept at his house the night of the murder.

But Amanda soon found herself undergoing a grueling overnight interrogation with no lawyer, no professional interpreter, no food and no sleep.

"There was a lot of mental abuse," Curt Knox said. "The police told her, 'You're not going to see you parents for another 30 years.' She was actually hit in the head a couple times. It was just an all-night, 'You're not coming up with the right answer for us.'"

Hours into the overnight interrogation, Amanda told police she was in the house and heard Kercher's screams, but described it as a vision. In effect, Amanda had changed her story, and was arrested and imprisoned.

That changing account has plagued Amanda from the start. But in April, the Supreme Court in Italy threw out the statement in which Amanda wavered from her otherwise consistent story -- that she was with her boyfriend at his house the night of the murder.

"It was determined by the Supreme Court that the method by which this [changed account] was obtained was inappropriate and illegal," Curt Knox said.

The defense says that ruling and recent updates in the case after an April hearing have poked holes in prosecutor Guiliano Mignini's theory: A new autopsy review determined there is no proof of a sexual assault.

And the defense says that forensic testing on a kitchen knife found in Sollecito's apartment, and thought to be the murder weapon, now shows that the knife is likely not the murder weapon.

Another suspect, a local man named Rudy Guede, has admitted to being with Kercher and intimate the night of her murder. But he said he went to the bathroom, where he claimed he had his iPod on, and returned to the bedroom to find Kercher alive on the floor with her throat slashed and scuffled with an intruder who then fled the scene.

Guede, who is also in jail awaiting charges, said he put a washcloth on Kercher's throat in an attempt to save her, but then left the cottage, fearing for his own life. But he did not call police and instead fled to Germany, where police arrested him after Italy's top forensic lab meticulously matched a bloody palm print on a pillowcase under Kercher's body to fingerprints they had on record for Rudy Guede.

Guede also stated that Knox and Sollecito were not in the cottage that night, but recently changed his story and said they were.

The investigation is expected to end in late June with a preliminary hearing likely to follow within a few months, where Amanda and the other suspects could be charged or freed.

Amanda's attorneys recently requested house arrest for Amanda, but it was denied in May by an Italian judge.

When the Knox sisters will see Amanda home again remains a big question.

With additional reporting by Ann Wise in Rome.