Perugia, March 23, 2013 @ 7:58 PM
( cont'd from Meredith Kercher, R.I.P )
The hills of Perugia are alive with spirits. I arrive after a long flight from Toronto at Rome's Fiumicino airport in the morning of March 18, am delayed on the motorway, and as I wait at Termini railway station, a pouring rain begins to fall. It is very healing, and I know, the spirit of Meredith Kercher, is finally, at peace.
The train to Perugia is a direct one, yay. I'm still late arriving there, and by the time I get my phone's SIM card changed, too late to make my appointment. But I am here in Perugia, a city that has fascinated me for so many years. For a case that haunts so many people.
Why am I here? I ask myself. Yes, it's a murder that touches on psychology and spirituality, but to come all the way to Italy for that? Sometimes, I just follow my feelings, and then later, know the whys of it. I'm here for justice, but, also, for Italy, and because, I have been here before. Yes, just thirty miles away, is Lake Trasimeno, a famous battle of the second Punic War in 217 B.C. and I wrote about that, and I wrote about my time in Rome, "The Man of War" in my novel Man From Atlan. But first, I go to the cottage at Via della Pergola 7, where the murder took place, and yes, there are spirits there. Meredith Kercher, the victim, Antonio Curatolo, the homeless man whose unshakable testimony helped provide a better understanding of the case, the many Carthaginian and Roman soldiers who died in the surrounding hills. I pray for them all, to be at peace.
The murder: The facts, as determined by the Micheli and Massei Courts (the Hellmann acquittal is now revoked) On November 01, 2007, British student Meredith Kercher was murdered by her roommate Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito (Amanda's boyfriend) Rudy Guede, an Ivorian resident of Perugia, has been found guilty as well by a separate trial process. Guede had fled to Germany, where he was found and returned to Italy. His fingerprint and DNA proved his presence in the cottage. His final trial in Rome, at Cassazione (the Giordano Report) establishes he did not act alone, and names Knox and Sollecito as accused co-conspirators.
Evidence: Numerous lies about the presence and whereabouts of the accused, alibis that fall apart under questioning, DNA of Raffaele Sollecito on Meredith's bra clasp, Meredith and Amanda's DNA found on a knife in Raffaele's flat (Meredith had never been there) Raffaele's footprint outlined in blood on a bathmat in the cottage, Meredith's blood mixed with Amanda's in the bathroom and another room, signs of a break in and Meredith is missing and not answering her phones, blood in the bathroom, Knox expresses concern but the police are not called for 40 minutes while she talks to her mother and room mate, and he calls his sister in the carabinieri, all of whom tell them to call the police!, signs of a clean up, signs that the break in was staged and the body was staged so as to suggest a robbery and sexual assault, and, as Sollecito breaks down and says that Amanda went away for a while and convinced him to lie for her, she turns around and accuses her boss Patrick Lumumba of having committed the murder while she was in the other room, covering her ears to block the sound of Meredith's screams. Yet, in the days after the murder, while every one else is in shock, she acts as if her 'friend' had not been killed, and her behavior caught on camera shows signs of psycho-sexual erotic release.
Supernatural coincidences: 1) Around 10:00 PM the night of November 01, a prank caller calls Elisabetta Lana on a country road outside the city walls and tells her not to use her toilet. It has been rigged to explode. She calls the police, who come by and find nothing. The next day, her son finds the first of two phones belonging to Meredith Kercher on her property...
He hands them in to the Postal Police, who, turning up at Meredith's cottage that day, surprise Raffaele Sollecito and Amanda Knox, with a mop and bucket she says was being taken over to Raffaele's apartment, even though he has a cleaning lady. They say there has been a break in, and have called the police. (Phone records show they did that after the time the postal police say they arrived) Raffaele keeps directing the police that 'nothing has been stolen', and Amanda, away from Meredith's locked door, that 'she always locks the door when she goes away'. The roommate denies this, and cause the door to be broken down, so that Meredith's slashed body is discovered.
2) Sometime during the night of November 01, two witnesses, Nara Capezzali and Maria Ilaria Dramis, who live in apartments overlooking the parking lot across from the cottage, 70-100 meters distance, hear a horrifying scream, and the sound of footsteps running away up an iron staircase. The courts determine this must have been from Meredith as she was being killed, and set a time of death based on an approximation of when the scream may have been heard. But I see, from my vantage point on the parking lot directly under their windows, that Meredith's window is facing away from them, and traffic noise, the thickness of their walls, and closed windows (it is chilly that day) make it unlikely they could physically have heard Meredith. Yet somehow, I believe they must have heard this psychic scream, so intense it transcended time and space, a quantum moment.
3) A car breaks down directly across from the cottage just before but is gone by 11:00 PM. No one can exit or enter without being observed.
The witnesses: 1) Antonio Curatolo, a homeless man, watches Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito have an intense conversation while peering over the fence of a basketball court towards the cottage. This is around 9:30 PM, then again at 11:00 PM.
2) Hekuran Kokomani, an Albanian cocaine dealer, sees Knox and Sollecito hiding among garbage bags at the entrance to the cottage. Knox threatens him with a knife,but Rudy Guede, whom he knows, comes along and offers him 300 euros to rent his car. (This is the amount of rent money stolen from Meredith, along with her credit cards and phones) He refuses and drives off, as they chase after him. He mentions seeing the broken down car, earlier, which places him at the scene. He flees to Albania afterwards, saying he's been threatened by associates of the Sollecitos.
3) Mario Quintavalle, a small store owner on Raffaele's street, says Amanda Knox came in early the next morning and wandered around the store close to the cleaning supplies. He cannot confirm she bought anything.
The families: The Kerchers impress all observers with their quite dignity. Struggling to make the stretched out court dates, they miss several important events due to the parents ill health and financial circumstances. Meanwhile, Knox's family has their expenses paid for by the networks hoping to land exclusive interviews.
The Knoxes/Mellas family (her parents have remarried) try to keep their daughter on track. She comes close to confessing she falsely accused Lumumba, till her father hushes her up. Her stepfather Chris Mellas sends abusive, threatening messages to female reporters whose reporting he disapproves of.
The Sollecitos: Daughter Vanessa loses her job due to her involvement in the case. Caught on wiretap discussing with her wealthy father how to use their political connections to change the judges. (This gets done when the Chief Justice of Umbria causes an experienced criminal judge to quit)
The PR campaign: Amanda's father Curt Knox hires Seattle PR agency Gogerty Marriott to feed pro-Knox info to the media. Media access is confined only to friendly reporters, so North American media takes on a pro-Knox hue. The British Kerchers never get interviewed on this side of the ocean for their views, and complain about how their daughter has been forgotten.
Gogerty Marriott, with their expertise in promoting defense giant Boeing and convincing Seattle taxpayers to fund new sports stadiums, plays the media for all it's worth, convincing Washington Senator Maria Cantwell and Donald Trump to make jingoistic threats against Italy, and specifically, prosecutor Giuliano Mignini, calling for him to be investigated.
Internet front organizations are set up to spam social media and give the impression of massive public support, even though most Americans are interested in the Casey Anthony and Jodi Arias trials. Run on the cheap by people with no expertise in forensic pathology or knowledge of Italian, they thrive on personal attacks and Google 'research' that gives the semblance of doubt, on specific items of evidence, and ignoring the vast sum of evidence, that, seen on the whole, are indicative of guilt.
This is where Perugian blogger Frank Sfarzo, aka Francesco Sforza, comes in. A seemingly endless source of case documents, he ingratiates himself with the press. At first, he is sympathetic to the Kerchers, but, seeing that most of the money is on the American side, switched to becoming one of the most prominent Knox supporters. He does this by conducting very public attacks on the prosecutor, Giuliano Mignini, criticizing his handling of the case. Imputing abuse of office by a public official (without proof) is a very serious crime in Italy, and when his blog is shut down, he claims instant victim hood. Few realize at the time that he is a vicious con man.
This is compounded by Prosecutor Mignini's dogged pursuing of a decades old case called Il Mostro di Firenze, the Monster of Florence (MOF) murders, where many couples were killed in ritualistic fashion and their sexual organs mutilated in a series of murders in the hills around Florence. There is high level interference of his investigation, even though his theory of masonic groups have already been echoed by many experienced prosecutors and investigators. He is found guilty of conducting an illegal wiretap, even though he had received permission. He appeals that, and also appeals directly to the Supreme Court, Cassazione, to allow him to continue his MOF investigation unimpeded.
The Acquittal: On October 03, 2011, the inexperienced Perugian Judge Hellmann, unprepared for this high profile criminal trial, acquits Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito. Knox flies back to Seattle, and, flush with the publicity, she and Sollecito soon land million $ book contracts, even though their acquittal has not been confirmed by Cassazione, as required by Italian law.
The Friends Of Amanda Knox: cock a hoop over their 'victory', crow about how there will be 'waves of lawsuits' directed at all of us on PERUGIA MURDER FILE where I have been contributing for the last two years as 'Ergon', my not-anonymous pseudonym. Combing through my internet postings, they compile a profile and start to pick on my spiritual beliefs. Fair enough, but the thing about it is, I investigate them too.
This is how I find they had hired a professor, Saul Kassin, to write a defense brief for the Italian courts how Amanda Knox had been 'coerced' to falsely accuse Patrick Lumumba. Yet when he publishes his 'findings' on the American Journal for Psychiatry he fails to disclose this. Oh, oh. I come up with other scoops about the infighting among the Friends Of Amanda and the secret meeting they all have on Vashon Island with their secret source, Frank Sfarzo, and retrieve from their secret forum's photos of the gathering. Then:
Sfarzo~gate: Francesco Sforza, on the run from Italy as authorities pursue him for a domestic violence case, attacking a police woman, and defaming a public official, issues several pleading letters for funds because he is being 'persecuted'. Many supporters of Amanda Knox are duped into sending him thousands of dollars to help him carry out the fight, but little did they know he already has been receiving a stipend from an American judge, Micheal Heavey, who has already been censured for writing letters to the Italian authorities. He comes to America where he is feted at a large gathering of Amanda supporters, many of them flipping a finger at PM Mignini to celebrate the 'victory' a photo that soon finds its way to me and now one of the most viewed on matters pertaining to this case. Hidden within the secret party, called by Amanda's family to coordinate the PR campaign, are Chris and Edda Mellas. They do not want any one to know of their connection with Frank, but already cracks are appearing in the facade.
He claims to have copies of Amanda's interrogation tapes, and to be able to 'blow the case wide open'. He asks for more money, but when none is forthcoming, becomes more bitter. His behaviour at the Mellases, causes him to be thrown out after two months staying there. Desperate because he's overstayed his visa, he tries to convince women to marry him so he can get a green card. Then he makes a trip to Hawaii to meet a female supporter. Things don't work out, he is abusive, and gets arrested. He gives a false name, Francesco Sforca, and is released when the supporter fails to press charges. She just wants him off the island. When she's attacked by the Group for telling about her experience, she contacts me. Writing about this opens the floodgates, and several sources approach me, and I get information about the tens of thousands of dollars he has collected in secret support from 'the Americans', about his legal troubles, and how he's been thrown out of Canada and charged in Seattle on further abuse charges. He even tried to sleep with Amanda Knox, as confirmed by her step father!
Then, I am told he's left behind crime scene documents in several places because of general forgetfulness and having to leave locations in a hurry. It appears, from perusing them, to contain files that came from a secret police source and insiders that did not come from official sources, but slipped to him before they were officially released. Hence, his ability to come up with the scoops that gave him an in with the media. I pass this on to the authorities, and follow up with several letters and gain a meeting with PM Mignini. And I start writing about these revelations. Much bleating about how they've been 'stolen'. Nope, they've been 'lost', and he can collect his 'property' from the authorities, maybe after appearing in court for the many charges he's evaded. I think that's it with him, then run into him in Rome, at Cassazione. He doesn't know who I am, but it seems, the story is not quite ended.
Perugian dreams: To get a feel for a place, you have to walk its streets, talk to its people. To understand a case, you visit the sites. To Elisabetta Lana's, Nara Capezalli, Maria Dramis, the cottage, the basketball court where Antonio sat.. The kebab place that gave Rudy Guede a 'bad stomache', I eat at five times. No problems there, and the many Arab hustlers and drug dealers and I get along just fine.
I have a short meeting with PM Mignini. Directed to his new office, I meet him coming down the escalators to meet me; in a few minutes I'd have missed him. We discuss the MOF case, and I wish him all the best at Cassazione. The next day, he has won a stunning victory, completely vindicated, and he is now on a fast track to becoming the chief prosecutor of the province of Umbria. Interesting, he shares the same interest in Gnosticism as me. We will keep in touch. I tell him I'll be in Rome myself the next week to witness what will come of the prosecution's appeal of the Knox-Sollecito acquittals. I have met him before; a friend from previous lives, and I have made many friends here, many friends going back to Etruscan times.
Perugia is indeed suffused with masonry, and its symbols abound. Today, here in Toronto, I am shown a picture of an ice sculpture of a Griffin, Perugia's emblem. Today, a new patient has the same birthday as Amanda Knox. Today, I am reminded about how Perugia haunts us still. But, there in Perugia, as I prepare to get ready for Rome, I see a flyer for a concert of choral music in the Marianum Auditorium.
And as the glorious soprano voice soars through the church, I think, I will come here again.
( To be continued in ROME 2013 )