In the first sit-down interview after the release of Amanda Knox, the mother and siblings of murder victim Meredith Kercher tell Barbie Latza Nadeau how the verdict left them in shock and looking for closure.
Arline Kercher has an easy smile and an inherent motherly demeanor. Sitting in a green chair next to her daughter, Stephanie, and son, Lyle, in the basement of the San Gallo hotel in Perugia on the morning after the release of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito, she looks fragile but not weak. “She’s not here to speak for herself, so we have to do it for her,” she told The Daily Beast. “She was always very happy and she always loved Perugia, but it proved fatal.”
Before sitting for the interview, Lyle grimaces as he pages through the headlines on a pile of local newspapers sitting on a chair. “Innocent,” “Free,” and “Absolved” top each page with a photo of Knox. Nowhere do they see a photo of Meredith on those pages.
This is the fourth trip Mrs. Kercher and her children have made to Perugia, and the first without Meredith’s father, John, who chose to stay in London to hear the verdict. The Kerchers’ first trip was to identify the battered body of their beloved daughter back in November 2007. They were here again in October 2008 when Rudy Guede was convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison for his role in the murder, and again in December 2009 when Knox and Sollecito were convicted and sentenced to 26 and 25 years, respectively, for theirs. The Kerchers expected the anticipated acquittal, but they do not readily endorse it. “It just seems like there was so much more than the DNA,” says Stephanie. “We respect the court, but we had hoped for a different outcome.”
For that reason, the Kercher family cannot yet think about moving forward. Theirs is an open wound that will not heal until they know what really happened to Meredith. Right now, in their minds, they don’t. The last they heard, Guede, Knox, and Sollecito killed their daughter together. They believed fully in the prosecution’s original case. “Anything is possible, and that’s all we had,” says Lyle. “We need to believe that because otherwise we would be plucking a theory out of the air ourselves. “
They say they haven’t had time to digest the news that Knox and Sollecito weren’t part of the scenario they’ve played over in their minds so many times. They say they will wait the 90 days until the appellate judge’s motivation for acquittal is released before deciding whether to alter what they really think happened that night. In the meantime, they remain in an unimaginable state of limbo, caught somewhere between the hyped celebrations of Knox’s release and their own bottomless void.
Each time Knox’s name makes headlines, the Kercher family grieves a little more. Lyle says he follows the press coverage of the developments and sometimes skims the blogs. “I skip the paragraphs describing the actual crime,” he says. “It’s just too much to bear or look at.”
Just weeks before the appellate decision, Stephanie wrote a letter to the court in which she pleaded that the jury consider all the evidence presented in the original trial, not just the DNA. “In these last few weeks we have been left seriously anxious and greatly troubled by news regarding the original DNA findings,” she wrote. “It is extremely difficult to understand how the results which were obtained with great care and presented in the first trial as valid could now be regarded as irrelevant.”
The Kercher family was deeply affected by the pro-Knox media coverage and says that the last few weeks have been particularly painful. “Until the truth comes out, we cannot forgive because no one has admitted to the crime,” says Stephanie.
The Kerchers say they have no closure. Lyle says this week’s ruling prolonged hope for closure even more. "We haven’t really had a chance to properly grieve,” he says. “It was a long difficult day, but we accept the decision and respect the court. But now we are left looking at this again. We really are back to square one.”