Italian prosecutors in the murder trial of American college student Amanda Knox grilled police today about what they indicated were suspicious patterns of cell-phone usage on the night Knox's roommate was stabbed to death.
Knox, 21, and former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, 24, are being tried for the murder and sexual assault of British student Meredith Kercher, 21, who was found dead with her throat slit Nov. 2, 2007. Knox and Kercher shared an apartment with two Italian women on via della Pergola in Perugia, Italy.
A third person, Ivory Coast citizen Rudy Guede, was convicted last October of participating in the crimes with Knox and Sollecito and sentenced to 30 years in prison. All three insist they are innocent.
The house where the murder took place continues to attract unwanted visitors. For a second time in the past month, intruders have broken into the Perugia cottage, although it was sealed by police.
Sollecito was particularly cheerful today, and Knox, an exchange student from Seattle, was attentive and relying more than usual on her interpreter as the 10th hearing of the trial concentrated on phone records.
Sollecito has always maintained that he was home in his apartment the night of the murder and initially told police his father had called him at home around 11 p.m.
Phone records later showed that he received no such call.
Sollecito also said that he was on the computer all evening, but computer experts testified last week that although his computer was on all night, no had used it from 9:10 p.m. until 5:32 a.m. the next day.
According to investigators, cell phone records for Knox and Sollecito, who claim to have spent the night of Nov. 1 together at his apartment, reveal something unusual.
Police investigator Letterio Latella testified today that Knox and Sollecito's cell phones were inactive most of the night, and activity on the cell phones stopped almost simultaneously. Sollecito's phone was inactive from 8:42 p.m. until 6:52 a.m. the next day, while Knox's phone was quiet from 8:35 p.m. on Nov. 1 and didn't show any activity until 12:07 p.m. the next day, when she tried to call Kercher.
Latella said that he did not find any evidence of a similar "blackout" of Knox and Sollecito's phones in the month preceding the murder. Normally, investigators have said, both Knox and Sollecito's phones were on until late at night and would come back on in the late morning.
Another witness today, Simone Tacconi from the Police Communications Service in Rome, testified that he had looked through Knox's cell phone, and found the message she had sent to the owner of the pub where she worked, Patrick Lumumba, on the evening of Nov. 1, 2007 in response to his text that she need not come to work that evening.
Tacconi said that the message read "Certo. Ci vediamo piu` tardi. Buona serata!" which in English is 'Sure. See you later. Have a nice evening!" This message, which investigators at the time interpreted as meaning Knox and Lumumba meant to meet up later, took on great significance early in the investigation.
When police questioned Knox insistently on the night of Nov. 5 about this message, she told police she was confused, but she seemed to remember that she was at Via della Pergola with Lumumba, and that "he did it," according to a police interpreter who testified last week.
This statement lead to the arrest the next day of both Knox and Lumumba.
Lumumba, who was released for lack of evidence after two weeks in jail, is suing Knox for slander. This past week Lumumba was awarded $10,000 from a Perugia appeals court for unjust imprisonment. Lumumba had asked for $650,000 in damages.
As he entered court in Perugia today, Lumumba told reporters he was "humiliated" by the sum, saying that his life had been ruined "from a moral point of view, as well."
Lumumba re-opened his pub, which had been sealed by police for months, but the business failed. "I am not asking for a handout," he said. "This is not what it is about. What happened to me could have happened to anyone."
Zachary Nowak in Perugia contributed to this report.