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Former Vashon classmates rally to support Amanda Knox's father

Amanda Knox is a UW student. - Courtesy photo
Amanda Knox is a UW student.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

While Amanda Knox was being tried for the murder of her roommate half a world away, a small group of Islanders was quietly raising funds on Vashon to support her father.

The reason? Curt Knox, Vashon High School Class of 1979, was their former schoolmate. And they knew, after seeing Knox at their 30th class reunion at Sound Food last summer, that the headline-grabbing case about a horrific murder in Perugia, Italy, was taking a toll on the former VHS football player — both financially and emotionally.

Islanders Shawn Hoffman, Chris Pruett, Molly Hassain and others, all members of the same VHS class, joined forces to help Knox. They set up an account for him at Bank of America and gathered cards with words of support. They recently gave him $1,000, plus about 30 cards and notes.

“Whether Amanda’s guilty or not, we’re just worried about Curt and what he’s going through,” said Hoffman, a VHS basketball coach.

“I was glad he showed up (at the reunion) and was open about what’s going on with Amanda,” Hoffman added. “He’s dedicating his whole life to helping her and getting her through this. ... It’s had a huge impact on his life.”

Pruett, who shared a locker with Knox from seventh to 11th grade, said he, too, was impressed that Knox came to the reunion and talked openly about a case that has captured international attention.

“He has a great attitude, considering what he’s going through,” Pruett added.

Knox, a West Seattle resident, was raised on Vashon; his parents, private people, still live here. He was a football player and track star at VHS, where his name still adorns some of the trophies on display in a glass case. In between college and his first job off-Island, he tended bar at Bishop’s, where the Red Bicycle Bistro & Sushi is located.

Now, as his former classmates noted, Knox is giving his life over to helping his daughter — a young woman who many believe was the victim of a zealous prosecutor, sensationalistic pre-trial publicity, anti-American attitudes and a judicial system lacking some of the safeguards Americans take for granted.

He’s made 15 trips to Italy since his daughter was arrested on Nov. 6, 2007. He’s mortgaged his home and spent thousands of dollars on her defense. Articulate and self-confident, he’s become one of her lead spokespeople, asserting both her innocence and his belief that she’ll come home soon.

Many have rallied to Amanda Knox’s defense, including U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, legal experts who have pored over the evidence and professors at the University of Washington, where she was a student.

But Curt Knox said he was also moved by the show of support from his former Vashon classmates, many of whom he’s not seen in 30 years. “It was a very touching gift,” he said.

Amanda Knox was a UW student studying in Perugia, Italy, when her roommate Meredith Kercher was found slain in the cottage they shared with two others. It was a gruesome murder: Her neck had been slit; her partially clad body was found in her room under her duvet cover.

What followed has been reported extensively by newspapers and TV news shows around the world, including an hour-long examination of the case on CBS’s “48 Hours.”

Amanda Knox was grilled for hours by Italian police, without a lawyer present and in a language she was not fluent in, before she was arrested. She sat in jail for a year while the prosecution prepared its case and then sat in jail through the course of the 11-month trial, where the lead prosecutor alleged that Amanda and her Italian boyfriend joined forces with another man — a drifter from the Ivory Coast whose DNA was found all over Kercher’s body — in a bizarre sex game that went awry; when Kercher wouldn’t participate, the prosecutor maintained, Amanda slashed her throat.

In December, after a trial in which the jurors were not sequestered, she was convicted and handed a 26-year sentence; her boyfriend received a 25-year sentence. The other man had already been sentenced to 30 years.

By the time the verdict was handed down, Amanda had already spent more than two years in prison.

Throughout the trial, the UW student was depicted luridly by the Italian press, and some reports suggest that many Italians were pleased with the guilty verdict.

But it’s been a different story in the United States, where much has been made about the prosecutor’s tactics and what Amanda’s supporters call the case’s flawed forensics. The alleged murder weapon, for instance, a knife found in the kitchen of Amanda’s boyfriend, did not match a knife-shaped bloodstain on Kercher’s bed, and the sample of the two women’s DNA on it was so small that some say most judges would not consider it admissible evidence. Indeed, according to press reports, there’s no physical evidence at all that Amanda Knox was in the room when Kercher was murdered.

Donald Trump has called for a boycott of Italy. Cantwell, meanwhile, says she plans to discuss her concerns with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Now, Curt Knox says, Amanda is sitting in an Italian prison, still enrolled in the UW, where she’s taking Italian and German, and preparing for her defense. She spends much of her time in a kind of solitary confinement, he said, because of the way Italian prisons work, though a family member or friend has been in Italy throughout the entire ordeal, ensuring she has a visitor every day. Her Italian professor from the UW plans to visit soon, he said.

Curt Knox, a former Macy’s executive who is currently looking for work, says his daughter is sometimes despondent, wondering how she’ll prevail on appeal if the trial judge and jury didn’t believe her. She’s always believed that if she were truthful, justice would prevail.

“She doesn’t understand why they don’t believe her,” he said.

At the same time, he said, he continues to be amazed by his daughter’s determination and spirit. In prison, he said, where she’s allowed two hours a day out of her cell, she tries to help the other inmates craft letters or advocate for their release.

“She’s chosen not to watch TV because she’s on it so often. She tries to help other people. My gut feeling is that when this is done, she’s going to become some sort of advocate for others who are wrongly imprisoned,” Curt Knox said.

Meanwhile, he said, he and her legal team are waiting for what’s called the “motivation document,” which lays out the jury’s reasoning in reaching its guilty verdict. That will help inform the appeal, he said. It will also help the Knox family know more fully what their chances are of winning her release.

“If they based it on the evidence in the court of law, rather than the courtroom of public opinion, then to me there’s no doubt that she’ll come home,” Curt Knox said.

The family is also encouraged by the amount of sympathetic press her case continues to garner, including news accounts in Italy that are beginning to explore the trial’s irregularities. Just last week, a reporter from “La Republica,” Italy’s largest paper, was in Seattle, interviewing the Knox family, UW professors and her friends, Curt Knox said.

Adding to the intrigue is the fact that the lead prosecutor, a controversial figure in Italy, was just sentenced to 16 months in prison for “abuse of power” in a different murder case.

The case, Knox said, seems to only draw more attention.

“It’s getting a heck of a lot bigger than we are as individuals,” he said.

 

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