In 2007 Amanda Knox arrived in Italy, a 20-year-old study abroad student eager to experience another culture 6,000 miles away from her Seattle home. Less than halfway into the semester, her roommate, Meredith Kercher, was murdered. Knox and her then-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito were arrested for the murder, and a jury in Perugia, Italy eventually found them guilty of murder.
Now, after four years, Knox and Sollecito are appealing their conviction and sentence.
A verdict is expected today as final arguments wrapped up last week.
Her family is hopeful that the conviction will be thrown out and she will be allowed to return home to Washington state.
Here are the key players who have made this case so compelling.
Amanda Knox has become the subject of books, movies and innumerable news stories since her November 2007 arrest for the murder of her British roommate Meredith Kercher.
Attracted by the gruesome murder as well as Knox's good looks -- she was dubbed the "angel face with icy eyes" by one tabloid -- her trial riveted attention in Italy, Britain and the U.S.
When she was convicted and sentenced to 26 years in prison, many Americans were outraged for the way evidence was handled and by comments and speculation made by prosecutors.
Knox was 20 when she arrived in Perugia, a slightly kooky free spirit with a knack for languages. She gave conflicting accounts of what happened on the night of the murder. And she was widely criticized for her behavior shortly after; she was captured on camera kissing her boyfriend outside the murder scene. Authorities said she was doing cartwheels at the police station while she waiting to be questioned by police. Knox has said that she was actually performing a yoga move in an attempt to relax during a difficult time.
She was crushed by her conviction, but her family says she is hopeful that she will be exonerated and is daydreaming of catching up on Harry Potter movies, and lying in the grass of her Seattle back yard.
She still faces charges of slandering Perugia police for claiming during her trial that the police abused her and cuffed her on the back of her head.
After four years in an Italian prison, Knox has, at times, seemed fragile and less naive. Meanwhile she has become fluent in Italian.
Sollecito, now 27, was a shy Italian student who had met Knox and started sleeping with her about a week before the murder occurred. Within days he was arrested and charged with murder. Prosecutors claim he was taking part in a sex game gone wrong, and that he was merely a puppet willing to do anything Amanda asked of him.
He has been locked up since his arrest in November 2007 and is facing a 25-year prison term.
His defense team has coordinated their appeal with Amanda Knox's team and their verdicts will come at the same time.
Sollecito's father, a doctor, was angry over his son's ties to Knox.
"She has ruined my son's life," Sollecito's father Francesco Sollecito told ABC News in 2007. "I damn the day he met her."
But Raffaele Sollecito has remained friendly with Knox, though only able to mouth words to her, exhange notes and steal glances during court appearances. They have remained friends despite Knox sending Sollecito a note ending their brief and star-crossed affair.
"I can't give you what you want. I can't give you my heart completely," Knox wrote to Sollecito in 2009.
Meredith Kercher, one of Knox's three roommates, was an exchange student from the University of Leeds in England.
She was found dead Nov. 2, 2007, lying partially naked in a pool of her own blood. Her throat was slit. Police say she was murdered the day before, between 9:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m.
Kercher reportedly loved Halloween and in the last photo of her, she is dressed like a vampire on Oct. 31, with a fake trickle of blood running down her chin. She partied that night into the early morning.
The following day Knox said she saw Kercher emerge from her room. They compared notes about Halloween, and then Meredith left for the day, planning to watch a movie and have dinner at a friend's house.
"It was the last time I saw her alive,'' Knox wrote in an email.
Kercher's father lashed out at Knox in December 2010 as Knox began her appeal, writing angrily in the British newspaper The Daily Mail that Knox had become a "minor celebrity," while his daughter had been forgotten.
Ivory Coast drifter Rudy Guede fled to Germany immediately after Kercher was killed, but was lured by police and a friend into a Skype call.
In that call, Guede admitted being at the cottage when Kercher was killed, but he said he was in the bathroom at the time, dealing with stomach problems. He told his friend that Knox and Sollecito were not there.
Guede was caught and returned to Italy where he was convicted in a separate trial of taking part in the Kercher murder. He was sentenced to 30 years, which was reduced on appeal to 16 years.
During that time, Guede changed his story a little at a time to finally claim that Knox and Sollecito were present at the cottage during the murder.
Knox has told the court that the only time she, Sollecito and Guede were in the same room was in a courtroom.
Amanda Knox called her mother even before she called police when she found the door to the cottage open and other disturbing signs on the day Kercher's body was found. The call woke her mother up during the predawn hours in Seattle.
Knox called her mother three times that morning and the final call was to say that Kercher's body had been found and that she had talked to police. Within days Edda Mellas was on her way to Italy, but her daughter was arrested before Mellas arrived.
Mellas' faith in her daughter has never wavered. In a 2008 interview with ABC News, Mellas said, "I know she's innocent. I know how shocked and upset she was when she found out, you know, Meredith was dead.... We wanted her to come home right away and she said, no, you know, I want to stay." Amanda, she said, wanted to help authorities find Meredith's killer.
Mellas defended her daughter at the trial in 2009, offering a calm and precise description of the events that took place the morning Kercher's body was found. She described her daughter as very upset and confused when she first called saying that she had found a "strange situation" at the house.
She also said there were no problems between her daughter and Kercher.
"They got along great," Mellas told the jury. "She told me about the fun things she and Meredith did."
Mellas and her ex-husband Curt Knox have been charged by Italian authorities with defamation after they defended their daughter to a British newspaper, repeating Amanda's claim that she had been abused physically and verbally during her interrogation by Perugia cops.
Amanda Knox's biological father, Curt Knox spent so much time traveling to Perugia to see his daughter in prison that he lost his job as a department store executive.
The Knox family estimates that they have spent more than $1 million traveling to Italy and mounting their daughter's defense and her appeal.
Although divorced, Curt Knox and Edda Mellas lived near one another and Amanda grew up close to both parents. Curt Knox told ABC News that if his daughter is freed one of the first things he wants to do is celebrate her 21st birthday. She is now 24.
Chris Mellas helped raise his stepdaughter and as the ordeal dragged on he moved into an apartment on the outskirts of Perugia so that there is a permanent family presence for Amanda Knox.
Mellas talked to Knox shortly after she was surprised by a TV movie trailer advertising a Lifetime movie about the murder, starring Hayden Panetierre. The clips showed a gritty portrayal of Kercher's killing as well as sex scenes.
Knox was emotional, he told ABC News, and recounted her saying, "I was physically ill when I saw the images. I thought I was going to throw up."
Knox explained how strange it was to see a "girl who looked like her, dressed like her, playing her life," the stepfather said.
Knox reportedly fought back tears during the phone call, explaining her frustration with having no control over her life and how her life is being portrayed. Her family said Knox is not aware of the magnitude of the press surrounding her life, and avoids watching television and reading newspapers.
Perugia's lead forensic investigator Patrizia Stefanoni presented key DNA evidence that led to the convictions of Knox and Sollecito.
But in the appeal trial, two court-appointed experts virtually ridiculed her methods, her analyses and her conclusions. At one point during the appeal, court observers laughed as they watched video of her team collecting evidence while the experts pointed out their mistakes.
The experts said the collection methods and the conclusions did not meet international standards.
At one point during the appeal, Stefanoni had to be told to be quiet by the prosecutor as she angrily tried to rebut criticism from a witness while seated near the prosecutor.
Stefanoni later argued there are no internationally accepted protocols for DNA collection.
|Diya "Patrick" Lumumba|
Diya "Patrick" Lumumba, a Congolese-born owner of a popular Perugia bar called "Le Chic," who hired Amanda Knox to work part-time.
Lumumba was briefly arrested and charged with Kercher's murder after being falsely implicated by Knox.
She has argued that police found and misconstrued a text message on her phone to Lumumba that roughly translated to, "See you later." The American colloquial expression for good-bye had been interpreted by the police as a plan to rendezvous that night.
During an all-night interrogation in which Knox says she was verbally and physically abused, and repeatedly asked about Lumumba, she told police she had a "vision" that Lumumba was at the cottage. She tried to retract her statement the following morning.
Lumumba successfully sued Knox and she has been ordered to pay him 40,000 euros in damages. His bar never recovered after his arrest and went out of business.
Controversial Italian prosecutor Giuliano Mignini has taken the spotlight on numerous occasions during the Amanda Knox trial. In October 2008 he lashed out against American criticism of the prosecution and Italian justice system, saying, "It is the first time I have come across such presumption and superficiality..."
In November 2009, the prosecution began its summation, at which time Mignini offered a reconstruction of the murder, including imagined dialogue.
Despite winning a conviction and a 26-year prison sentence, Mignini appealed the Knox verdict because he wanted her sentenced to prison for life.
While prosecuting Knox, Mignini was also defending himself; in January 2010, Mignini was convicted of abuse of power for another case he argued in Milan.
|Laura Mezzetti and Filomena Romanelli|
Amanda Knox and Meredith Kercher shared a cottage with two Italian roommates, Laura Mezzetti and Filomena Romanelli.
Both testified at Knox's trial, suggesting that they hadn't had much contact with Knox.
Romanelli, 29, a law student who worked as an apprentice in a Perugia law firm, told the court Knox and Kercher had bonded immediately.
"They had no reason not to get along, but it seemed that as time went on they drifted apart," said Romanelli.
On the day Kercher's body was discovered, Romanelli was driving to a fair with a friend, she said. Knox, she said, had called her and allegedly told her she had seen something strange -- blood in their apartment -- and that she had nonetheless taken a shower.
"I urged Amanda to take a better look around the house and get back to me," Romanelli said. She said she could not understand how Amanda could have taken a shower under such circumstances.
When Romanelli returned home she found out the window in her room had been broken and her room was a mess.
"I noticed that my computer was on the floor, on a pile of clothes, and covered with pieces of glass," she said.
Investigators suggested Sollecito and Knox staged a theft after the murder, breaking the window with a rock.
|Amanda Knox's Sisters|
Amanda Knox is the oldest child in her family. She has one sister, Deanna, and two half-sisters, Ashley and Delany, from her father's second marriage.
All three of Knox's sisters appeared on "Oprah" in 2010 to speak about the difficulties they've endured as a family.
Deanna Knox, Amanda's 22-year-old sister, told Oprah Winfrey she struggles with being a good role model to Ashley, 15, and Delaney, 11.
"I want to be as strong as I can, but Amanda is the best at that. She's always going to be the older sister. I'm just the substitute," said Deanna.
Deanna Knox said that her sister's arrest, trial and conviction have essentially put her life "on pause," forcing her to drop out of school and get a full-time job.
"My life has been put on hold," she said.
Delaney told Oprah that with Amanda in Italy, her family feels incomplete.
"If I had one wish I'd want her to come home and have this never have happened," she said.
"I cry because I don't have my sister here," said Ashley. "I stay strong for Amanda because I know I have to."