SEATTLE (Reuters) - Amanda Knox was expected to get a warm welcome on her return to Seattle on Tuesday afternoon, one day after an Italian court cleared the 24-year-old college student of murder and freed her from prison.
Knox, who grew up in the close-knit West Seattle neighborhood where both of her divorced parents still live, was expected to land at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport shortly after 5 p.m. local time.
On her arrival she will likely make a brief statement thanking her supporters, said Anne Bremner, a Seattle defense attorney and spokeswoman for Friends of Amanda Knox, which raised money for her defense.
Bremner said that, according to her family, Knox was looking forward to having a backyard barbecue, being outside in the grass, playing soccer and seeing old friends.
“Just normal things that you would want to do after being in prison for four years for a crime you didn’t do,” she said.
Knox sobbed on hearing that the court had overturned her 2009 conviction for murdering her housemate, 21-year-old Meredith Kercher, in what prosecutors had said was a drug-fueled sexual assault.
Also cleared was her former boyfriend, Rafaele Sollecito, leaving Ivorian drifter Rudy Guede as the only person convicted in a killing which investigators believe was carried out by more than one person.
Kercher’s half-naked body was found, with more than 40 wounds and a deep gash in her throat, in the apartment she shared with Knox in Perugia, where both were studying.
Prosecutors, who called Knox a “she-devil” and accused her of killing Kercher during a sex-game gone wrong, have vowed to appeal the verdict overturning her conviction.
‘MOST OUTSTANDING STUDENT’
Kercher’s family has refrained from criticizing Knox or Sollecito but has said repeatedly that Meredith has been forgotten in the media frenzy.
Knox’s supporters cheered, cried and hugged on Monday at the news that she had been released.
Her home area, framed by Puget Sound waters on three sides, is one of Seattle’s oldest neighborhoods and is known for its strong sense of community.
Evan Hundley, head of the private Explorer Middle School, where Knox attended sixth, seventh and eighth grades, described West Seattle as ”a city within a city.
“When something happens here, it’s big news,” Hundley said. “We’re a strong neighborhood.”
Hundley said students whooped with delight during the school’s daily student assembly on Monday when the news of Knox’s release was announced.
Knox won the school’s first Manvel Schauffler Award, named after a founder of the school, which has about 100 students who pay an annual average tuition of about $15,000, said Debbie Ehri, the school’s business manager who knew Knox.
“It was our first award for our most outstanding student. Amanda was an academically strong student. She was genuinely a lovely, kind and talented student,” Ehri told Reuters.
“Teachers absolutely adored her. She was just delightful to have in class,” she said. “She was caring, not only with her studies, but she was a kind, lovely girl.”
Knox also attended Seattle Preparatory School, a small Jesuit high school, graduating in 2005. The school organized letter-writing campaigns on her behalf and fund-raising efforts to help pay for her defense.
“She should be free, it’s really sad that she was in prison for four years,” 47-year-old Cora Ploetz said at the Westwood Village shopping center, a few miles from the home of Curt Knox, Amanda’s father.
Her friend, Ken Iverson, said he felt relief for Knox.
“I was under the impression it was like the Inquisition,” Iverson, 63, said of the court proceedings.
Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Greg McCune