ROME, Nov. 9, 2007 — -- An Italian judge ruled Friday that an American student, her Italian boyfriend and a Congolese bar owner should remain in jail as suspects in the death of a Britishstudent, her lawyer said.
Amanda Marie Knox, 20, from Seattle Wash.; Raffaele Sollecito, 24, and Lumumba Diya, 38, a local pub owner, have been detained since Monday in connection with the sexual assault and killing of Knox's roommate, MeredithKercher, 21, a student from Britain. Kercher and Knox were both exchange students and shared an apartment in Perugia, Italy.
Kercher's body was found Nov. 2 inside the apartment. She was half naked and laying under a duvet, with a stab wound in her neck.
The coroner says it appears she died fighting off a sexual attack.
The police chief says he believes all three suspects were all in the room when Kercher was killed.
Judge Claudia Matteini said in a 19-page ruling that there wassufficient evidence to keep the three in jail for up to a yearwhile the investigation continues, said Luca Maori, one ofSollecito's lawyers.
"We didn't expect it," Maori told reporters, adding that heplanned to appeal. He said he still had to read the ruling, but that the defenseteam was "perplexed" by the judge's decision, The Associated Press reported.
The three have denied involvement in the killing, according totheir lawyers.
Under Italian law, suspects can be kept behind bars withoutbeing charged if a judge rules there is enough evidence to jailthem and there is a chance they might flee, repeat the crime ortamper with evidence.
Knox is an exchange student from the University of Washington.
Police say Knox has given conflicting versions of events, according to leaks from local police. First she suggested a break-in. Then, according to press reports, she broke down when accused of holding Kercher while she was attacked. She claims she was in another room.
Friends back home in Seattle describe Knox as sweet, kind and fun-loving, and as having the time of her life studying in Italy on an exchange program.
In a clip on YouTube, Knox looks like a typical, carefree and fun-loving college kid.
But somewhere along the line it's gone horribly wrong.
Rick Kirsten, who owns a gallery where Knox interned, said Knox is no killer. "Amanda was so good with people. And that was my gut feeling. She's the all-American girl."
And at the coffee shop where she worked, co-worker Ross Peritore said, "I find it hard to believe that she could be involved with that. And I hope that it comes out in the end that she had nothing to do with it."
As for Kercher, her family tried to grasp some meaning from the tragedy.
"She was pursuing her dream. And we can take some comfort in knowing that she left us at what was a very happy time in her life," her sister Stephanie told reporters."We loved Meredith then, we love her still, and she is still very much part of our family forever."
Knox, her boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito and Lumumba Diya, a local pub owner, are all being detained. Police say they think all three were in the apartment when Kercher died.
Arturo De Felice, the police chief of Perugia, told the BBC Wednesday that Knox told investigators that she heard Kercher scream Friday, the night she was murdered. De Felice characterized Knox's statement as a "partial confession," but said she keeps changing her story.
The residents of Perugia, a peaceful Italian hilltop town, are still trying to make sense of the disturbing news emerging about the murder case, which has gripped all of Italy for days now.
Kercher was a third-year student at Leeds University and is from Coulsdon in south London.
A postmortem test reportedly showed that there was evidence of sexual activity before the death although medical examiners did not confirm that she had been raped. The murder weapon has still not been found.
Knox's boyfriend Sollecito, an engineering student at the University of Perugia, describes himself in his blog as "very honest, peaceful, sweet, but also sometimes totally mad." He had become Knox's boyfriend two weeks ago.
Diya, known by all his friends as Patrick, has been in Italy since 1988 and has regular work papers. He recently bought a popular pub in Perugia where students like to gather. Residents say he is well liked in town, organizes concerts and has a band that plays music, "a contemporary reggae ethnic mix," Knox's Facebook entry mentioned.
The Corriere della Sera daily paper printed "leaked" excerpts Wednesday from Knox's and Sollecito's police statements. Knox's describes what happened that night in a very confused way and accuses Diya of the murder: "Patrick and Meredith went into Meredith's room while I think I stayed in the kitchen. I can't remember how much time they stayed in the room together but I can only say that at a certain point I heard Meredith scream and I blocked my ears because I was frightened. Then I don't remember anything else, I have a big confusion in my head. I don't remember if Meredith was screaming and if I also heard thumps because I was under shock, but I imagined what could have happened," the statement says, according to the paper.
The paper says Sollecito's statement recounts how Knox said she had found blood in the bathroom when she had gone back to her house and how they both went back together to see. He tried to open Meredith's room door but it was locked. "After that I called my sister ?and she advised me to call the police? I then called the police," Sollecito's statement reads.
Knox, who was studying Italian in Perugia, has reportedly been seen with her other two roommates at the scene of the crime, accompanied by police officers in recent days.
Italian detectives speaking at a press conference Tuesday confirmed that Kercher appeared to have been killed when a sexual encounter went horrifically wrong. De Felice refused to elaborate on the circumstances of her death but told reporters that it is believed Kercher died fighting off a sexual attack and stressed that she was "morally innocent" and was a "victim and nothing more."
The murder has attracted much media attention, occurring during a period of heightened public outrage over a spate of violent crimes blamed mostly on illegal immigrants living in Italy.
Perugia is a popular city for college students from around the world who want to study abroad. Its narrow medieval roads and squares are flooded with students who come to study Italian or to go to the University for Foreigners.
Like many students in the town, Kercher had arrived in Italy at the end of August as part of a one-year exchange program. She planned to spend the year studying to improve her language skills, make new friends and immerse herself in Italian culture. She was described as a lively, caring and intelligent student, always sounding happy when she called home and seemingly enjoying her time away from home.
Italians got to know Kercher's young smiling face from the rather uncanny photos printed in the papers, showing her at a Halloween party dressed in a Dracula costume, all taken hours before she was murdered. Her friends reportedly said she enjoyed herself greatly that night -- going to at least three nightspots in costume -- which led to early speculation about the possibility that she met someone that night who then became her murderer.
The American Embassy in Rome said it was unable to comment on the case and refused to say whether its legal advice officials had made contact with Italian police on this case.
The Associated Press and ABC's Nick Watt contributed to this report.