SEATTLE - Amanda Knox was nowhere to be found Tuesday after news arrived from Italy that her successful appeal of a conviction in a bizarre murder overseas was rescinded and she may have to stand trial again.
In the 1 1/2 years since her acquittal, Knox returned to classwork at the University of Washington, sometimes seen with a boyfriend, a musician. The massive coverage she was subjected to by the Italian and British press during her trial did not follow her here. The media in Seattle have largely let her be.
"It seems unfortunate for her and her family and friends that this is starting all over again," model Douglas White said as he waked out of a building in a neighborhood in the city's Chinatown section, where Knox was said to have an apartment.
"I wish her the best," he said. "If I see her, I'll say 'hi.' Everybody is innocent until proven guilty, and she's innocent."
An Italian high court on Tuesday ordered Knox, 25, and her Italian ex-boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, retried in the death of British exchange student Meredith Kercher, whose bloody body was found in November 2007 in her bedroom at the house she shared with Knox and other roommates in Perugia, an Italian university town where the two women were exchange students. Her throat had been slashed and she had doezns of wounds.
Prosecutors alleged Kercher, 21, was killed in a sex and drug game that got out of hand. Knox and Sollecito said it was a lie, and that neither was even in the house when it happened. An Ivory Coast man was convicted in the case too and is serving a 16-year sentence. Knox's defense lawyers say that man was the sole killer, and he implicated Knox at the urging of prosecutors who promised him a lesser sentence.
They were cleared in October 2011 after a hearing revealed that police had tainted much of the critical evidence in the case, and that DNA evidence was handled improperly. Knox waited up all night for the ruling, which came around 2 a.m. West Coast time. The Italian Supreme Court said it would not explain its rationale for its ruling until the summer.
Knox issued a statement through a family spokesman soon afterward saying it was "painful" to hear the ruling but that she is confident that the truth will exonerate her.
"No matter what happens, my family and I will face this continuing legal battle as we always have, confident in the truth and with our heads held high in the face of wrongful accusations and unreasonable adversity," she said.
"The prosecution responsible for the many discrepancies in their work must be made to answer for them, for Raffaele's sake, my sake, and most especially for the sake of Meredith's family. Our hearts go out to them," the statement said. "No matter what happens, my family and I will face this continuing legal battle as we always have, confident in the truth and with our heads held high in the face of wrongful accusations and unreasonable adversity."
Kercher's family attorney, Francesco Maresca, said after the ruling, "Yes, this is what we wanted."
Sollecito's attorney, Giulia Bongiorno, noted that Tuesday's ruling was not a determination of guilt but merely a need for further study of the appeals court ruling. Knox's lawyer, Carlo Della Vedova, said in Rome that hios client is "ready to fight."
"She is very sad, she thought that the nightmare was over," he said.
However, some legal experts doubt Knox will ever have to return to Italy even if her earlier conviction is upheld and her sentence of 26 years reinstated.
Giorgio Spangher, head of the law school at Rome's Sapienza University, said any Italian request for extradition could easily fail to meet the guidelines for ordering a U.S. citizen to Rome. Italy must demonstrate a proof of guilt that's recognized by a U.S. court.
The 2011 appeal that was successful was based on the argument that all the proof in the case was flawed in some way, either through outright tampering or inconclusive results so it's quite possible that any conviction now would not be recognized by a U.S. court.
Spangher points out that the case hasn't been reopened, but that the 2011 appeal that acquitted Knox and Sollecito was annulled. He said Knox cannot be compelled to return to Italy for the court proceedings to follow but can choose to do so voluntarily. If she's convicted in absentia, Italy could request her extradition.
"We have to wait and see what she decides to do, but if she were my client, I would not advise her to return for this case," Spangher said.
It is still possible Knox and Sollecito will be acquitted again. There is no new proof in the case, and the flaws remain.The next step is to set a date for a hearing in the court in Florence, which is likely not to be held for months.
Knox's lawyers in Italy and the USA must prepare two legal fights on her behalf, said Stephen Vladeck, an expert on international criminal law at American University's Washington College of Law. In Italy, they must prepare for an entirely new trial, Vladeck said. In the USA, they should start researching challenges to extradition.
A new trial would involve recalling witnesses and reviewing forensic evidence before a jury and could proceed without Knox's presence.
"As long as she has competent lawyers, and I'm sure she will, it's less of a concern for her to be physically present" at trial, Vladeck said.
The case is unlikely to be considered a case of double jeopardy by U.S. courts because Knox was never acquitted before a jury, Vladeck said. That is unlikely to stop Knox's U.S. lawyers from mounting a challenge to extradition if she is convicted a second time.
"They're going to start looking for cases where (extradition) requests were turned down or courts have blocked it," Vladeck said. "I suspect they will try to make a version of the double jeopardy argument anyway."
Knox served four years in prison in Italy before her freedom was granted and was portrayed often as a crazed American sex deviant by the press, who referred to her as "Foxy Knoxy" in headlines.
Enrico Campione, 50, an art restorer from Rome, sympathized with Knox.
"The poor girl. I don't know if she's innocent or guilty, but they had two trials already, and they should know that," he said. "If she's guilty, she should be punished, of course. But I feel bad for her that she can't put his behind her."
Sabina De Tomaso, 29, a restaurant worker, was not as sure.
"I had a feeling she was guilty before and she got off because she had expensive lawyers and they found technical problems," De Tomaso said. "I hope they will find the truth now."
Byron Acohido and Eric J. Lyman, USA TODAY