Italian Prosecutors Seek Murder Charges Against Knox

Prosecutors in Perugia, Italy, today requested murder indictments for American college student Amanda Knox and two others in the gruesome slaying of Knox's British roommate, Meredith Kercher.

Knox, a 21-year-old University of Washington student, has been held for the past eight months in a maximum security Italian prison after the bloody November 2007 death of Kercher in the home the two girls shared while studying in Italy.

Prosecutors also requested murder indictments against Knox's Italian former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, and Ivory Coast citizen Rudy Hermann Guede.

Now that the indictments have been requested, a preliminary hearing date will be set and is expected to be held in mid-September. The hearing will be held in front of judge Paolo Micheli, who will decide whether adequate evidence exists to have the suspects stand trial. Micheli is the fourth judge to rule on this case.

If the case goes to trial, it will likely begin before the end of the year.

All three suspects have denied having a hand in Kercher's death.

Birthday Behind Bars

Today's news ends a week in which Knox celebrated her milestone 21st birthday Wednesday behind bars in the Italian prison.

Sollecito and Guede have also been detained as suspects. Under Italian law, suspects can be held for one year before being charged with a crime.

Sollecito's lawyer, Luca Maori, told ABC News that Sollecito sent Knox flowers on her birthday — nine yellow anthuriums — along with a note that read: "Happy Birthday. I hope that justice prevails soon."

Knox's mother, Edda Mellas, told ABC News this week that her daughter told her that she received Sollecito's note, but did not mention flowers.

Sollecito and Knox have not been permitted to speak since their November arrests and are currently held in separate prisons. They have written to each other previously, according to Maori.

Mellas and Curt Knox, Amanda's father, alternate stays in Italy for their twice-weekly, one-hour visits with Amanda on Tuesdays and Fridays. Mellas, who is currently in Italy, said she did not see Amanda on her birthday or on Thursday, when Mellas celebrated her own birthday.

"We sang 'Happy Birthday' to each other, hugged, held hands and cried," Mellas said in a sad tone of her Tuesday visit with her daughter. "It was an emotional day — celebrating our birthdays stuck in places we don't want to be, not really celebrating."

Knox told her mother this was not the birthday she envisioned, but she had resigned herself to the fact that she would turn 21 in prison, Mellas said.

"Here we are, the two of us, spending birthdays in Italy a few miles apart. It's not really a birthday." Mellas said.

Missing a Milestone

Ten thousand miles away in Seattle, Curt Knox, Amanda's sister Deanna, 19, and half-sisters, Ashley, 13, and Delaney, 9, also sent birthday cards. Curt expected a 10-minute phone call from Amanda on Thursday, which she is permitted once per week to approved family members.

"For me, it's not her birthday," Curt Knox told ABC News. "I had hoped to have her go out and buy me a cocktail, a privilege she should have earned today at home [in Seattle]. There are certain milestones we hit at certain ages in life — and this is one she missed."

"This is not what I would call a happy birthday, he added. "We will celebrate the happy portion when she is cleared of everything and can come home."

When, or if, Knox might be able to celebrate with her family in Seattle is a huge question that the Italian legal system will ultimately decide. Today, Amanda's birthday wish would probably be freedom.

Brutal Murder Leaves Question Marks

Kercher, a 22-year-old British student, was found stabbed to death last November in a cottage she shared with Knox and two other girls. Kercher and Knox were studying in Italy and had recently arrived in Perugia.

Within days of the killing, Knox and Sollecito were taken into custody. Guede had fled to Germany, but was tracked by police and extradited to Italy.

Guede has admitted to being intimate with Kercher the night of her murder, but he says he was in the bathroom listening to his iPod while Kercher was allegedly stabbed by an Italian man he saw fleeing when he returned to the bedroom. After Guede allegedly tried to unsuccessfully save Kercher, he fled to Germany and did not call police.

Initially, Guede told police Knox and Sollecito were not at the house the night of the murder. He later changed his story and said they were.

Knox and Sollecito say they were together at Sollecito's house that night. But during an initial interrogation, Knox briefly changed her story and said she had a vision that she was in the kitchen and heard Kercher's screams, but covered her ears. Italy's Supreme Court ruled that the statement could not be used against her because there was no lawyer present when she made it.

Murder, Sexual Assault Charges Possible

Prosecutor Guiliano Mignini ended his investigation and deposited evidence on June 19. Included in his deposit were 10,000 pages of autopsy reports, interrogations, evidence and phone taps.

Mignini claims that Kercher was raped, strangled and stabbed in the neck, but forensic experts appointed by the court concluded that sexual assault could not be proven.

Mignini accuses the three suspects of voluntary homicide and sexual assault, and Knox and Sollecito are also accused of simulation of a crime for allegedly faking a break-in.

Mignini also accuses all three of stealing Kercher's money and credit cards. Kercher's purse was found near her body, missing 300 euros and two credit cards.

Lawyers for the three defendants had until this week to go over the prosecutor's documents and submit additional evidence or requests.

Maori asked for parking lot surveillance video from midnight through the morning after the murder. He also requested the diagrams from the DNA phenotypes. Knox's and Guede's attorneys made no submissions.

Ann Wise contributed to this report.

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