SEATTLE — Amanda Knox returned to her hometown of Seattle on Tuesday and was as overcome with emotion as she was a day earlier in Italy, when she was acquitted on murder charges after four years in prison. “Thank you for being there for me,” she tearfully told her supporters in front of a crowd of international reporters.
“I’m really overwhelmed right now,” she said at a news conference minutes after she was escorted off a British Airways flight out of London. “I was looking down from the airplane, and it seemed like everything wasn’t real.”
The 24-year-old’s life turned around dramatically Monday when an Italian appeals court threw out her conviction in the sexual assault and fatal stabbing of her British roommate. On Tuesday, photos of Knox crying in the courtroom after the verdict was read appeared on the front pages of newspapers in Italy, the U.S., Britain and around the world.
Wearing a brown cardigan and black leggings, with her hair in a ponytail, Knox sobbed at the news conference and held her mother’s hand as her lawyer Theodore Simon said her acquittal “unmistakably announced to the world” that she was not responsible for the killing of Meredith Kercher.
After her parents offered their thanks to Knox’s lawyers and supporters, Knox spoke briefly, saying, “They’re reminding me to speak in English, because I’m having problems with that.”
“Thank you to everyone who’s believed in me, who’s defended me, who’s supported my family,” she said.
“My family’s the most important thing to me so I just want to go and be with them, so, thank you for being there for me,” she said before she and her family left.
Knox’s acquittal, fueled by doubts over DNA evidence, stunned the victim’s family and angered the prosecution, which insists that she was among three people who killed Kercher, 21. But for Knox’s grandmother Elisabeth Huff, “it was like the weight of the world had gone.”
“We all are as happy as can be. I can’t tell you how long we’ve been looking forward to this day,” Huff told The Associated Press outside her home in West Seattle, a tight-knit community a few miles across Elliott Bay from downtown.
Knox’s father, Curt, later spoke to reporters outside his house, where there was a small welcome-home party but no sign of his daughter. He wouldn’t say where she was.
He said Amanda would like to return to the University of Washington at some point to finish her degree, but for now, “The focus simply is Amanda’s well-being and getting her reassociated with just being a regular person again.”
Curt Knox said he’s concerned about what four years in prison may have done to his daughter, though there are no immediate plans for her to get counseling. “What’s the trauma … and when will it show up, if it even shows up?” he said. “She’s a very strong girl, but it’s been a tough time for her.”
Neighbors and well-wishers watched as Curt Knox spoke to reporters, and some approached with flowers and cards.
People in the neighborhood where Knox grew up were thrilled she was back. “WELCOME HOME AMANDA,” read the marquee at a record store. A bar offered half-price drinks to celebrate her acquittal. Around the state, at least one TV station tracked the progress of her flight on the air using a plane-tracking website.
Knox left Perugia’s Capanne prison Monday night amid cheers that a companion compared to those at a soccer stadium.
Hundreds of inmates — most of them in the men’s wing — shouted “Amanda, ciao!” and “Freedom!” as she walked into the central courtyard, said Corrado Maria Daclon, head of the Italy-US Foundation, which championed Knox’s cause. Daclon said Knox jumped a little for joy and waved to the prisoners.
She was soon on her way home, protected by the darkened windows of a Mercedes that led her out of the prison in the middle of the night, and then Tuesday morning to Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci airport. She flew from Rome to London, where she took a direct British Airways flight to Seattle, flying business class with full-length seat and menu options including champagne, smoked salmon and prawn salad.
Knox was studying abroad in Perugia when Kercher was killed in 2007.
In a letter released hours before she left Italy, Knox thanked those Italians who supported her. “Those who wrote, those who defended me, those who were close, those who prayed for me,” Knox wrote, “I love you.”