Two women who live in the vicinity of the cottage in Perugia, Italy, where British exchange student Meredith Kercher was found with her throat slit in November 2007 testified in court today that they heard a scream come from the house that night.
Mara Capezzali, an elderly woman who lives across a parking lot from the house, testified that at about 11:30 p.m. on Nov. 1, 2007, she woke up in her home and while walking to the bathroom she heard a woman scream.
"It was not a normal scream," said Capezzali, "it made my skin crawl."
Capezzali was on the stand to testify in the trial of American student Amanda Knox, 21, and her former Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, 25, who are accused of sexually assaulting and murdering Kercher.
Kercher, 21, was found dead in her bedroom in a pool of blood with her throat slit on the morning of Nov. 2, 2007. A third man, Ivory Coast citizen Rudy Guede, was earlier sentenced to 30 years in jail for participating in the murder, which he denied.
When asked to describe the scream she heard more specifically, Capezzali said it was a long scream, and she imitated it softly. The only other place she had heard such a scream, she said, was at the movies.
Capezzali looked out her bathroom window but saw nothing. Shortly afterwards she said she heard people running, at least two people in opposite directions almost simultaneously.
"I heard someone running on the metal stairs and someone else on the gravel and leaves in front of the house across the way," Capezzali said.
Her testimony supported the prosecution theory that more than one person was at the scene of the crime when Kercher was killed.
Under cross-examination from defense attorneys, Capezzali became confused about events, and was unsure after repeated questioning of the date on which she heard the scream. But she said she was sure it was the night before she found out that Kercher had been killed.
Man, Woman Heard Arguing
Another witness, a young school teacher from Perugia, also told the court she had heard a scream the night of Nov. 1, 2007.
Antonella Monacchia testified that she awoke some time after 10 p.m., when she normally goes to bed, to the sound of two people arguing heatedly. Shortly after that she heard a scream.
She got out of bed and opened the window, but saw nothing. Everything was dark. Monacchia then went downstairs to her parents' apartment, but they had heard nothing, after which she went back to bed.
Monacchia testified that the voices were a man and a woman yelling at each other in Italian. She did not hear what they said or whether they had any particular accent.
Monacchia's bedroom window overlooks a parking lot, and has a clear view of the house where Kercher died.
Knox, Sollecito Relaxed in Court
A third witness, Maria Dramis, who lived in the area testified that on the same night she heard the sound of running footsteps under her window, a sound that woke her up around 11 p.m. This was not an unusual occurrence, but it struck her in light of what she found out the next morning about the death of Kercher just down the road.
A peculiarity about the testimony of the Monacchia Dramis is that they did not report what they had heard to investigators until over a year after the fact. When they finally did explain what they heard, it was only after prompting from a journalist who accompanied them to the police station.
"I thought that what I had heard was not important," Monacchia said today of why she didn't go to police earlier.
Both Knox and Sollecito were present in court, as they have been for all of the hearings. Knox smiled as she greeted her lawyers, and looked relaxed and confident, in jeans and a blue sweater. Sollecito was also smiling and seemed more relaxed now than on other occasions. He blew a kiss at his stepmother during a break.
Knox's mother, Edda Mellas, is in Perugia to visit her daughter but is not allowed in court because she will be called as a witness. She was allowed into an adjacent room where she was able to see her daughter at the end of the hearing.
Mellas told reporters that Knox said today's hearing "was good" and that they hugged each other before she was taken back to prison. She said she brought her daughter books, including one by Herman Hesse in German, music CDs from friends, and flip flops.
Sollecito Described as 'Shy'
In the afternoon, testimony focused on Knox's co-defendant, Sollecito.
The director of a student dormitory in Perugia where Sollecito lived from 2003 to 2005 testified that he was "taciturn, introverted and shy" and that he often blushed.
Another student who also lived in the dorm at that time and was friends with Sollecito used very similar terms to describe the young student, confirming his quiet and reserved nature. The dormitory director told the court that Sollecito read Japanese Manga comics, watched many films and was once caught watching a sexually explicit movie.
Antonio Galizia, a police chief from Sollecito's hometown in southern Italy, said in court today that in 2003 Sollecito and some friends were caught in possession of one ounce of hashish at a nearby beach. That was, however, the only time Sollecito had been in trouble with the law.
When asked by Sollecito's lawyer Luca Maori, Galizia also testified that Sollecito's mother, who died when he was a teenager, had not committed suicide.
Maori later told reporters that Sollecito had agreed to have his mother's death discussed in court, so, as he said, "we can clarify once and for all that she died from natural causes." There had been repeated reports in the press that it was a suicide and that this had traumatized Sollecito.
Sollecito turned 25 Thursday and celebrated his second birthday in custody since being arrested for Kercher's murder. For the occasion he received a birthday card from Knox, which said simply "Happy Birthday Raffaele," according to his lawyers. For Knox's birthday in August, Sollecito sent her flowers.
The two did not greet each other or exchange glances in court today.