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Originally published Monday, October 3, 2011 at 4:53 AM

Knox leaves Italy to head home to US

Amanda Knox has left Rome aboard a London-bound plane en route to the United States.

Associated Press

Raw Video: Amanda Knox Leaves Prison

Raw Video: Amanda Knox to Be Free

Video: Knox family thankful nightmare is over

Video: Amanda Knox delivers statement

Meredith Kercher/Amanda Knox timeline:

Nov. 1, 2007 — 21-year-old British student Meredith Kercher is found dead in the bedroom of the apartment in Perugia, Italy, that she shared with 20-year-old University of Washington student Amanda Knox. The cause of death is a stab wound to the neck. Police allege that Kercher was killed while fending off a sexual assault.

Nov. 6 — Knox, her Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, 23, and nightclub owner Patrick Diya Lumumba, 44, are arrested by Italian police. All three say they are innocent.

Nov. 9 — An Italian court rules that Knox, Sollecito and Lumumba can remain in jail for up to one year during the investigation.

Nov. 20 — A fourth suspect, an Italian citizen originally from the Ivory Coast, Rudy Guede, 21, is apprehended in Germany. Meanwhile, Lumumba is released from custody due to a lack of evidence.

Oct. 28, 2008 — Judge Paolo Micheli convicts Guede of murder and sexual assault, and sentences him to 30 years. Guede appeals. Micheli also orders Knox and Sollecito to stand trial on charges of murder and sexual assault.

Jan. 16, 2009 — Trial of Knox and Sollecito opens in Perugia before presiding Judge Giancarlo Massei.

Dec. 4 —The eight-member jury finds Knox and Sollecito guilty, sentencing them to 26 and 25 years, respectively.

Nov. 24 – Knox and Sollecito’s appeal begins.

May 16 – Knox slander trial opens.

Sept. 7 – Judge Claudio Pratillo Hellman rejects a prosecution request for new DNA testing. Prosecution requests to introduce newly found records about the DNA tests, and to hear a new witness are also dismissed. The hearing is adjourned until September 23.

Sept. 24 – Prosecutors ask court to increase Knox and Sollecito’s sentences to life in prison.

Sept. 27 – Defense lawyer says Knox is less of a “femme fatale” and more like Jessica Rabbit – just drawn that way.

Oct. 3 – Italy appeals court clears Knox of murder.

The Seattle Times news archives

quotes Brava! Justice finally done. She's earned the inevitable book deals. Read more
quotes educatedone, Rudy Guede raped and murdered Meredith Kercher. He's serving 16 years... Read more
quotes "If you're positive she didn't do it, then you must also be positive about who did... Read more

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PERUGIA, Italy —

Amanda Knox has left Rome aboard a London-bound plane en route to the United States.

She leaves the morning after an Italian appeals court dramatically overturned the American student's conviction of sexually assaulting and brutally slaying her British roommate.

The Italy-US Foundation, which has championed her cause, said Knox departed shortly after noon (1000 GMT) from Rome's Leonardo da Vinci airport. In London, she will catch a connecting flight to the United States.

The 24-year-old Knox arrived at the airport in a Mercedes with darkened windows and waited for boarding inside a private waiting area, out of public view.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

PERUGIA, Italy (AP) - Amanda Knox was leaving Italy a free woman Tuesday, the morning after an Italian appeals court dramatically overturned the American student's conviction of sexually assaulting and brutally slaying her British roommate.

The Italy-US Foundation, which has championed Knox's cause, said the American was at Leonardo da Vinci airport in Rome boarding a flight to London, where she will catch a connecting flight to the United States.

AP photographers and camera crew at Leonardo da Vinci airport in Rome saw Knox family members in a terminal. Knox was not immediately seen, and was believed to have been escorted by police through a non-public entrance to the airport.

Back in Perugia, the family of slain British student Meredith Kercher remained stunned by the verdict and searching for answers.

"It was a bit of a shock," said Stephanie Kercher, the victim's sister. "It's very upsetting ... We still have no answers."

Lyle Kercher, a brother, said the family is still trying to understand how a decision that "was so certain two years ago has been so dramatically overturned."

Lyle Kercher said the family has been left to wonder who is guilty in the 21-year-old Kercher's death after the release of Knox and her one time boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito on appeal. A third man has been convicted in the brutal slaying, however his trial concluded he did not act alone.

"If the two released yesterday were not the guilty parties, we are obviously left to wonder who is the other guilty person or people. We are left back at square one," Lyle Kercher said.

Prosecutor Giuliano Mignini expressed disbelief in the verdict, and vowed an appeal to Italy's highest criminal court.

"Let's wait and we will see who was right. The first court or the appeal court," Mignini told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

"This trial was done under unacceptable media pressure. The decision was almost already announced, this is not normal," he said.

Knox and her ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito were convicted in 2009 of sexually assaulting and murdering Kercher, a 21-year-old British student who shared an apartment with Knox in Perugia. Knox was convicted to 26 years, Sollecito to 25. Both had been in prison since Nov. 6, 2007, four days after Kercher's body had been found at the apartment.

But, the prosecution's case was blown apart by a court-ordered DNA review that discredited crucial genetic evidence used to convict the two in 2009.

The 24-year-old Knox dissolved into tears as the verdict was read in a packed courtroom after 11 hours of deliberations, and she needed to be propped up by her lawyers on either side.

Two hours later Knox was in a dark limousine that took her out of the Capanne prison just outside Perugia, where she had spent the past four years, and headed to Rome.

"During the trip from Perugia to Rome, Amanda was serene," said Corrado Maria Daclon, the secretary general of the Italy-US Foundation, who was with Knox in the car. "She confirmed to me that in the future she intends to come back to our country."

On Tuesday, Knox thanked those Italians "who shared my suffering and helped me survive with hope," in a letter to a foundation that seeks to promote ties between Italy and the United States and which has always championed her cause.

"Those who wrote, those who defended me, those who were close, those who prayed for me," Knox wrote. "I love you, Amanda."

While waves of relief swept through the defendants' benches in the courtroom, members of the Kercher family, who flew in for the verdict, appeared dazed and perplexed. Meredith's older sister Stephanie shed a tear, her mother Arline looked straight ahead.

"We respect the decision of the judges but we do not understand how the decision of the first trial could be so radically overturned," the Kerchers said in a statement. "We still trust the Italian justice system and hope that the truth will eventually emerge."

The Kerchers had pressed for the court to uphold the guilty verdicts passed two years ago, and resisted theories that a third man convicted in the case, Rudy Hermann Guede, had acted alone. Guede, convicted in a separate trial, is serving a 16-year sentence.

The verdict reverberated through the streets of this medieval hilltop town, where both Knox and Kercher had arrived for overseas studies programs four years ago.

Hundreds of mostly university-age youths gathered in the piazza outside the courtroom jeered as news of the acquittals spread. "Shame, shame," they yelled, adding that a black man had been made to shoulder all of the guilt for the murder.

The jury upheld Knox's conviction on a charge of slander for accusing bar owner Diya "Patrick" Lumumba of carrying out the killing. The judge set the sentence at three years, less than the time Knox had spent in prison.

Prosecutors said they would appeal to the nation's highest criminal court, after reading the court's reasoning due out within 90 days.

Just before deliberations began Monday, Knox tearfully told the court she did not kill her roommate.

"I've lost a friend in the worst, most brutal, most inexplicable way possible," she said of the 2007 murder of Kercher, who shared an apartment with Knox when they were both students in Perugia. "I'm paying with my life for things that I didn't do."

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Patricia Thomas contributed to this report.

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