US hometown awaits Knox return from Italy
Friends of US student Amanda Knox in her hometown Seattle hailed her release Monday as they await her return from Italy -- possibly as early as Tuesday.
Supporters and family friends, gathered on tenterhooks to watch the news in a downtown Seattle hotel, cheered and wept as she was acquitted of murder and sexual assault by an Italian court.
"It was like an electrical current going through my body," said Margaret Ralph, who knew Knox as a high school student, after the decision was announced in Perugia, Italy.
"I'm just utterly, utterly relieved," added John Lange, who was Knox's high school drama teacher, with tears in his eyes.
Pamela Van Swearingen, a Seattle attorney who became involved to explore what legal options Knox might have, added: "I'm just so grateful. I'm surprised yet not surprised, just grateful."
"I just keep thinking of how happy her mother's going to be, how relieved her mother is going to be knowing her child is free, and is safe after four years," added Kallane Henry, a friend of Knox's parents.
It was not immediately clear how soon Knox could return to Seattle, but the American spoke of her longing for home in a tearful statement to an Italian court shortly before she was acquitted.
"I want to go home. I want to return to my life," the 24-year-old said, just before the jury retired to consider its decision.
That could mean returning to her family home in the quiet Seattle suburb of Arbor Heights, where she grew up before becoming a languages student at the University of Washington.
She was spending a year in Perugia as part of her studies when she was charged and convicted over the gruesome 2007 killing of British student Meredith Kercher, with whom she shared a house.
But there were no immediate details of her travel plans, other than reports that she planned to fly out of Italy via Rome on Tuesday.
Some media reports suggested she could be whisked away for a lucrative exclusive newspaper or television interview, to give her side of the ordeal over the last four years.
Ralph said Knox had inevitably been hurt by her experiences, but would be surrounded by love at home.
"I dont think shes coming home damaged. I feel that shes coming home with holes in her heart and its going to take time to fill those up," she said, cited by the ABC television network.
One of Knox's home-state senators, Democrat Maria Cantwell, also hailed the Italian court ruling.
"Amanda's parents, family and friends have been through an incredible ordeal. We are all thankful that she will be free to return to Seattle as soon as possible," she said in a statement.
"I am glad that the appeals court gave Amanda the fair hearing that she deserves. All countries must live up to their international commitments to provide a fair trial by an impartial tribunal to those accused of crimes."
© 2011 AFP