Amanda Knox lives in a seedy part of Seattle known as the International District, a neighborhood whose occupants are mostly Asian restaurants and markets, in the shadow of downtown’s gleaming skyscrapers and a few blocks from a park overrun by crackheads. She lives in the Hong Kong building, run by a manager who wears a ponytail and sweater with no undershirt, even on a balmy 70-degree Seattle Saturday. He guards his tenants’ privacy as jealously as he guards his own.
“I know why you’re here,” he said Saturday, puffing a cigarette, glancing about nervously. Then, after advising that all the information anyone needs on where Amanda Knox lives today could be found on a British website, he disappeared into the building, flicking his cigarette onto the sidewalk. He declined to identify himself. “This conversation,” he said, as if delivering a line from a Mission: Impossible script, “never happened.”
Knox likes it this way, say her family members and her neighbors. Likes that her building manager chases off pesky reporters. Likes being left alone. And after what she’s been through, it’s hard to blame her. Knox has spent the better part of the last five years as a media darling in a sensational murder trial in Perugia, Italy. She and her erstwhile boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito were first convicted and then acquitted of murdering her British roommate Meredith Kercher in 2007 in a highly polarizing case that still isn’t completely over. The case will go in front of Italy’s high court in March 2013 for a final ruling on whether justice was truly served.
Today marks a year since Knox was released from prison. And to the extent that it’s possible, her life since she came back to Seattle has slowly returned to a kind of normal.
Knox is dating an old boyfriend and classical guitarist named James Terrano. The Hong Kong building apartment is James’s place, sources tell The Daily Beast. Knox just shacks there.
Her grandmother, Elisabeth Huff, saw her last week, at her birthday party. Knox is happy, Huff said, “part of the family.” And her family has finally had some time to get back to that, to being a family. “We have activities together, we see each other, we eat, we pet our dogs,” Huff told The Daily Beast. “It’s normal daily living.”
Well, almost. Knox still finds herself ambushed by an occasional paparazzo, her callbox buzzed by a Daily Beast reporter. She wants no part of that, Huff explained. “We are very leery of the media,” she said. “Unfortunately, none of us were prepared for the obnoxious behavior of the media while she was being prosecuted, and this hasn’t gone away. We are very careful who we talk to. That’s just the way it goes.”
During the trial, Knox’s family enlisted the expertise of David Marriott, a top Seattle public relations guru who helped guide them to only speak to media outlets who were friendly to their cause. Knox’s first formal interview is one of the most coveted “gets” being fought over by the American networks, and she has, so far, not said who she will talk to first.
That may all change when Knox’s book is finished. She’s working on it with an editor now, literary agent Robert Barnett acknowledged in an email, and won’t be giving any interviews until the project is wrapped. Knox’s former boyfriend, on the other hand, has completed his memoir and is talking to the press. Raffaele Sollecito only returned to Italy last week, after a book tour in Seattle. His work, Honor Bound, hit The New York Times bestseller list last week. He spoke with The Daily Beast on Monday morning, via Skype.
Life after prison is surreal, Sollecito said. “The world around me was kind of sparkling lights and colorful. Almost I felt like a kid inside, just discovering. Everything was new for me. I opened the fridge, was staring at everything that was in the fridge. I didn’t see a fridge for four years,” he said. “Everything was new. Even a fresh glass of water. In prison, the water tasted like toilet water.”
Sollecito still feels that way, he said, that sense of elation and happiness every day. But he also struggles with memories of life inside a solitary confinement cell in that Italian prison, of the guards pressuring him daily to turn on his former lover, to “throw Amanda under the bus,” that “nightmare.”
During those four years, Sollecito realized that Knox’s image had split in his mind: one was the girl he dated for just a week before they were accused of murder, a “goofy Alice in Wonderland”; the other, this person who was his alleged co-conspirator, who so many people were convinced was a monster. It wasn’t until the first time he saw her again, after their release from prison, that he “realized she was the Amanda that I loved for one week.”
Sollecito saw Knox in Seattle in March, at a party in his honor, attended by many members of her family. He saw her again at Huff’s birthday, Amanda with her boyfriend and some “friends of Amanda that were very cute.” She seems more mature, Sollecito said, more “with her feet on the ground.” But he can also see that she endures the trauma associated with writing her own story. “I busted through it,” he said of finishing his own book. “But I know how painful it is. She still is working with that kind of feeling, that kind of pain. It is not a joyful period.”
The quick success of Sollecito’s book bodes well for Knox’s own story, for which she reportedly will earn $4 million. Her considerable legal bills put her parents in debt, they have said. Her biological and stepparents mortgaged their homes to help cover travel expenses during her four years in prison.
True to her grandmother’s description, “Foxy Knoxy” mostly keeps to herself. But she’s spotted walking around her neighborhood regularly. Juliana Lai owns a small cafe in the shop space on the first floor of the Hong Kong building, where she also lives. Lai—who didn’t realize who Knox was until she saw a story in a Chinese-language newspaper reporting that she lived in the International District—said she sees Knox regularly on the elevator. Lai said she often smiles, or says “Hi.” Knox, she said, never smiles back.
What provides Knox cover in this rundown neighborhood is that it’s filled with people who either don’t speak English well or are tourists, looking for a good place to eat. Most didn’t recognize Knox’s name, uttered out of context, and didn’t recognize her picture, either. Given a bit of the backstory, though, most people not only remembered what happened in Italy but had an opinion about it.
Lai last saw Knox a few days ago, she said, at a Vietnamese sandwich shop a couple of blocks from the Hong Kong building. The shop’s owner, even after looking at a picture of Knox, didn’t recognize her. “She’s pretty unrecognizable,” said Christopher Griffith, a regular customer, waiting for his teriyaki beef to be prepared. “She looks like most people.”
It took Griffith a while to remember who Knox was, at first. But once a bit of the context came through, he had an immediate opinion. “She got screwed,” he said. “I would love to meet her. I would say, ‘You got screwed.’”
Knox’s legal battles aren’t over yet. She is still facing slander charges against the Perugia police who she says hit her. Her parents are also on trial for slander for repeating her claims to a British newspaper. And while her murder charge was overturned, she still stands convicted of falsely accusing her former boss Patrick Lumumba of the murder during the early days of the investigation. If that slander conviction holds during the high court’s appellate process, she will have to pay him restitution for his own incarceration.