Saturday, November 10, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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UW student implicates boss

A University of Washington student has accused a popular pub owner of knifing her British roommate to death in Italy, according to a judge's ruling Friday ordering the student, her Italian boyfriend and the pub owner kept in jail.

The Italian judge ruled there was enough evidence to keep Amanda Knox, a 20-year-old studying abroad in the central Italian city of Perugia, and the two men behind bars for up to one year without charge as the investigation continues into the Nov. 1 slaying of Meredith Kercher.

No formal charges have been filed against Knox or Knox's Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, 24, and Congolese immigrant Diya "Patrick" Lumumba, 38, for whom Knox worked.

All three, who have been detained since Tuesday, have denied involvement in Kercher's slaying. Judge Claudia Matteini, in a 19-page written statement, said that Knox, under questioning by prosecutors, accused Lumumba of killing Kercher, 21.

Knox has "confused memories, since she had taken hashish in the afternoon," the ruling read. But it said she told prosecutors Lumumba "had a crush" on her roommate and he and the victim had gone into a bedroom to have sex.

"She added that she could not remember if [Kercher] had been previously threatened but that it was Patrick who killed her," the ruling read. "She made clear that in those moments ... she heard Meredith scream so much that she, being scared, covered her ears."

A lawyer for Knox, Luciano Ghirga, told reporters Friday that his client had given "three versions and ... it is difficult to evaluate which one is true."

He also said he had warned Knox against making unfounded accusations. "We told her that it would be worse than assassination to accuse an innocent person. We explained to her what slander means in Italy and we'll see," Ghirga said.

Lumumba's lawyer, Carlo Pacelli, maintains that his client was at his pub and accuses Knox of making "slanderous statements."

"She repeatedly changes her story," he said Thursday.

One of Sollecito's attorneys, Tiziano Tedeschi, previously told reporters his client "wasn't at the crime scene."

The judge said in her ruling that the suspects might try to flee Italy if released.

"They could easily leave the territory of the state to escape the investigation," the judge wrote, noting that Lumumba is from Congo, Knox is American and Sollecito could enlist his girlfriend's help to flee.

Under Italian law, suspects can be held without charge if a judge rules there is enough evidence to jail them and there is a chance they might flee, repeat the crime or tamper with evidence. Prosecutors may later seek to indict the suspects and put them on trial.

Kercher's body was found in the house that she, Knox and two other women shared in Perugia. Kercher, who was stabbed in the throat, apparently died fighting off a sexual attack, police have said.

Kercher was in the third year of her European-studies degree at the University of Leeds and had gone to Italy on a one-year exchange, a university spokeswoman said.

In her reconstruction of the incident, the judge said Knox, who worked for Lumumba at his Perugia bar, let the two men into the apartment with her keys.

"Then something went wrong," Matteini wrote. "The two [men] demanded some kind of sexual act, which [Kercher] refused to do. She was then threatened with a knife, which Sollecito always carried with him, and with which Meredith was stabbed in the neck."

Shock among students in Perugia was exacerbated throughout the week. First they were stunned at the death of a British student who, like them, was enjoying life in another country, said Nathan Abraham, an American living in Perugia.

Soon, alleged witness statements were leaked to local newspapers, which printed gruesome, and conflicting, details of the death.

Days after students rallied to comfort Kercher's housemates, they learned that Knox was actually a suspect. And so was bar owner Lumumba, a fixture in the city whom Abraham called "the most famous guy in Perugia."

"Each stage, you just got shocked even more and you couldn't even believe it," said Abraham, who last saw Kercher on Halloween at a bar where he works. "Perugia is a city of peace."

Perugia is home to one full-scale university and one of Italy's most popular language-study institutions. The Italian city's population of about 150,000 is largely international.

"This has been a shock for people here, but it's a real shock for people there," said Mike James, president of the Seattle-Perugia Sister City Association. "There's been nothing like this in the modern history of Perugia."

Knox, who graduated from Seattle Preparatory School in 2005, had been studying at the University for Foreigners in Perugia.

Knox's family, in a statement released Thursday, said the "events that have unfolded in Perugia, Italy, over the last few days regarding our daughter, Amanda, have shocked and devastated our family."

Friends of Knox in Seattle have vigorously defended her over the past week.

"She's a very good person," close friend Madison Paxton said. "This is not something she would do."

Seattle Times staff reporter Christina Siderius contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company


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