Witness Contradicts Accused in Italy Murder Trial

By: Alessandra Rizzo AP
By: Alessandra Rizzo AP

PERUGIA, Italy (AP) - The witness account contradicted testimony by defendant Amanda Knox, who said she woke up mid-morning the day after her roommate Meredith Kercher died from a stab wound to the neck.

Knox and her former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito are accused of killing the 21-year-old British student on the night of Nov. 1, 2007. Prosecutors say Kercher was killed between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. during what started as a sex game. Kercher's body was found the next morning in the Perugia house she shared with Knox.

The two defendants deny wrongdoing. Sollecito said he spent the night at his house, and does not remember if Knox spent all or part of it with him. Knox, after conflicting statements, eventually said she was at Sollecito's house and awoke mid-morning on Nov. 2, 2007.

Witness Marco Quintavalle said Saturday that a young woman he identified as Knox entered his grocery store near Sollecito's house in Perugia at 7:45 a.m. on Nov. 2. He said the woman was waiting for him to open the store, and that he and she exchanged glances when she entered.

"It really struck me, she had a very pale face and these light eyes," Quintavalle said. "I can still see the image in my head."

Asked by the judge if that woman was in the courtroom, Quintavalle said he was sure it was Knox.

"Now I'm sure," he said, looking at her. Knox did not appear to react.

Quintavalle said he was not at the cash register that morning, and so was not sure if Knox had bought anything. He said he had seen Knox one or two times before at his store with Sollecito, a frequent customer, and then recognized Knox' face in newspapers and on TV days after Kercher's killing.

Quintavalle, who gave prosecutors the information a year later upon the suggestion of a reporter friend, said Saturday he had waited because he had "no enthusiasm about getting involved in this story."

Defense lawyers questioned the reliability of the witness. Carlo Dalla Vedova asked him if he could say how tall Sollecito is and what color his eyes are. Quintavalle gave an indication on the height and said he was not sure about Sollecito's eye color.

Knox's stepfather, Chris Mellas, said the trial so far had failed to show "any evidence that she's done anything, which is the truth."

"With each court session that passes she feels a little bit better," Mellas told The Associated Press before Quintavalle took the stand. Mellas has been visiting Knox in jail.

Other testimony Saturday focused on whether Sollecito's apartment smelled of bleach. Prosecutors say police detected the odor of bleach when they went there on Nov. 6, 2007 - the day both defendants were arrested.

Investigators allege the defendants might have used it to eliminate any possible trace on any item that might have been at the death scene.

A woman from Ecuador who used to be the cleaner in Sollecito's
apartment told the court she never used bleach.

Rosa Natalia Guaman Fernandez De Calle said nothing seemed different in Sollecito's house when she last went there on Nov. 5, 2007, and was asked to clean "as usual." She said she didn't use or smell bleach that day, but could not be sure whether bleach was among the cleaning products in the house.

Prosecutors say it is significant that bleach was not used by the cleaning woman, but was smelled the day after by police.

A lawyer for Sollecito, Luca Maori, offered the opposing view. He noted that the woman did not smell the bleach even despite being in the house for two hours, suggesting police might have wrongly identified the odor.

Last year, a third defendant, Rudy Hermann Guede of the Ivory Coast, was convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison at a separate trial. He also denies wrongdoing.

Police said this week that intruders apparently got into the house where Kercher and Knox lived. On Saturday, Italian media reported that a pillow and the mattress in Kercher's room had disappeared, apparently during the intrusion. Authorities did not immediately comment on the reports.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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