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Police: DNA of victim, roommate on knife

  • Story Highlights
  • Italian police have found DNA traces of slain British student on suspect knife
  • U.S. student Amanda Knox is a suspect in the case, along with her boyfriend
  • Knife also contains DNA of Knox, the victim's roommate, police said
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ROME, Italy (CNN) -- DNA belonging to a British woman slain in Italy has been found on a knife belonging to her roommate's boyfriend, one of three suspects in her death, Italian police said Thursday.

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Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito have been detained in relation to the murder of Meredith Kercher.

Meredith Kercher, 21, was found dead in her bed Nov. 2, half-naked and with a knife wound to her neck. Kercher was an exchange student enrolled at the University of Perugia in Italy.

Kercher's 20-year-old American roommate, Amanda Knox of Seattle, is now jailed in connection with the slaying. Also jailed are Knox's Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, 23, and her Congolese boss, bar owner Patrick Lumumba.

Tests showed DNA belonging to both Knox and Kercher was found on Sollecito's knife, which was retrieved from Sollecito's apartment, police said. Kercher's DNA was found near the tip of the knife, while Knox's DNA was found near the base. Police also found the knife had been washed, authorities said, but in-depth testing was able to recover the DNA.

A report issued last week by an Italian judge paints a disturbing picture of how Kercher is believed to have died.

"The fact that Meredith was a victim of violence is evidence from the state in which her body was found," said the report issued by Judge Claudia Matteini of the Civil and Penal Tribunal of Perugia, according to a translation posted on The London Times' Web site. A pathologist found evidence of bruising on Kercher's lips, gums and chin, the judge said.

"There are the bruising and lesions on the neck, which suggest that Meredith was held by the neck, leaving bruising compatible with the pressure of fingers, and subsequently threatened with a knife held to her throat. Meredith was held down, and bruises indicate a sexual act carried out or attempted in a hurry or against the girl's wishes."

Kercher's time of death likely was between 10 p.m. and midnight on November 1, Matteini said.

In the report Matteini notes that Sollecito and Knox spent the afternoon of Nov. 1 smoking hashish. Later, the judge said, Knox received a message from Lumumba "who ... confirmed the appointment that evening." Knox had agreed beforehand to "provide him (Lumumba) with help in having an encounter with her friend Meredith," Matteini said.

The three later went to the villa Knox shared with Kercher, and at some point Kercher went into her bedroom with Lumumba, but "something went wrong," the judge wrote. "Sollecito in all probability joined them and the two began to make advances, which the girl refused. She then was threatened with a knife, the knife Sollecito generally carried with him and which was used to strike Meredith in the neck."

Matteini said in the report the three suspects attempted to stage a break-in to cover their tracks, attempting to clean up drops of blood in several places and spreading blood elsewhere.

The following day, agents from the postal police arrived at the villa to contact another roommate regarding her found cell phone, the judge wrote. They were met outside by Knox and Sollecito, who told them they had called the military police after finding a broken window, and they suspected a theft.

In a search of the apartment, authorities broke down Kercher's locked door and found her body. The room, Matteini writes, was "in disorder with blood stains everywhere, on the ground and on the walls."

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Knox told police Lumumba was responsible for Kercher's death. She later retracted that statement via her mother, saying drugs rendered her account of that night "confused." She has given investigators three different versions of what occurred. Her lawyer said even he was having trouble discerning the truth. Sollecito's attorney, meanwhile, said his client's association with Knox has ruined the man's life.

"The fact that he fell in love with her is a mistake, but it certainly doesn't make him guilty," said attorney Luca Maori. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

-- CNN's Hada Messia and Jennifer Eccleston contributed to this report.

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