FLORENCE, Italy Nov. 6, 2013 -- Amanda Knox's ex-boyfriend and co-defendant in an Italian murder trial told the court today that Knox was his "first true love" and described their brief romance as a "fairy tale."
Raffaele Sollecito spoke emotionally at times during a 20 minutes statement before the appeals court in Florence, denying that he and Knox killed Meredith Kercher and calling the accusations against them "absurd."
Knox, who has spent four years in an Italian prison, has remained at home in Seattle and has said she will not return to Italy for the trial, the third time the former couple are being tried for the 2007 murder.
Knox and Sollecito had been dating for about a week when Kercher, Knox's English roommate, was found semi-nude and her throat slashed in a cottage the women shared in Perugia. Knox and Sollecito were charged with her murder shortly after.
The couple was initially convicted of murder in 2009, but an appeals court threw out the verdict in 2011. Last year, Italy's supreme court threw out the appeals trial and ordered the appeal reheard. The new hearing began in September.
Sollecito, now 29, addressed the court today, defending himself and his romance with Knox, who had been vilified in Italy as a "she devil."
"Amanda Knox was the first true love of my life. Even if late in my life, this flower blossomed," he told the court.
"We had a carefree love," Sollecito said and that they "wanted to be isolated in this little fairy tale."
Instead, it turned into a nightmare of prison, litigation and suspicion. He told the court he can't find a job because people think of him as a killer.
"I never went to parties obsessively, never loved liquor, but I may have smoked a couple of joints, but that doesn't change who I am psychologically," he said.
He called Kercher's murder an "atrocious crime," but said the accusations against him and Knox were "absurd."
Pleading with the judge and jury, Sollecito said, "I appeal to you to give an Italian like you the possibility of having a life."
Much of today's hearing focused on a newly tested DNA trace found a knife that was retrieved by police from Sollecito's kitchen and that the prosecution claims was the murder weapon.
The tests on a spot that had not been previously tested found Knox's DNA, but determined that Kercher's DNA was not present in that spot.
Prosecutors have claimed, however, that Kercher's DNA was found elsewhere on the blade in previous tests.
A lawyer for Knox called today's forensic testimony a "victory," but the prosecution said it would comment on the forensics during its summation.
The court set the next hearing for Nov. 25 and 26 for closing arguments by the prosecution. The defense will make its case in December. Both sides are expected to make their rebuttals on Jan. 9 and the court will begin its deliberations on Jan. 10.
A third person, Rudy Guede, has been convicted in the Kercher murder. He was tried separately and is serving a 16 year prison term.