The Staged Burglary

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One of the earliest clues that led to suspicion falling on Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito was that the burglary immediately appeared simulated. The two Postal Police officers, Michele Battistelli and Fabio Marzi, stated that they were suspicious of the legitimacy of the burglary immediately.[1] The call to the emergency number was also suspicious and when Raffaele Sollecito was challenged by the operator the line disconnected.[2] Meredith's body had not yet been discovered so the severity of the situation was still not known but right from the start the burglary would seem off. After the murder was discovered and the burglary investigated the police were able to determine that the burglary was staged. Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito were convicted of staging the burglary. With the March 26, 2013 Supreme Court of Cassation decision Knox and Sollecito currently stand provisionally guilty of staging the burglary while awaiting the new appeal. Rudy Guede who was jointly charged with the murder of Meredith was not charged with staging the burglary. The Supreme Court of Cassation, at Guede's final appeal, specifically upheld the ruling that he was not responsible for the staged burglary.[3]

Contents

Who Returned To Move Meredith?

The negative impression of the bra strap with clear drag marks
The bra with aspirated speckles, located at her feet by morning
The speckled bra found far from the victim and the matching spray on the wardrobe

The state of the corpse revealed she had been moved from her original location, from in front of the wardrobe to the center of the room, quite some time after her death. Her bra was found the next day just a few inches away from her right foot, in an area devoid of blood, yet the right strap thoroughly soaked. Both straps and the clasp were broken. Clear evidence can be seen on the front of the wardrobe and on the bra cups of point-like spots from a spray of aspirated blood, but the corresponding area of the victim's chest was clean, proving that she was no longer drawing breath when she was stripped and moved. Pictures described by the Micheli court amply illustrated the lividity in her right shoulder, as well as an impression of this bloodied strap in her skin and a corresponding negative impression on the floor, which remained fixed in the blood.

The victim had been disrobed and re-positioned in the center of the room, presumably to highlight the sexual feature of the attack, part of a tableau intended to credit the idea that a stranger had broken in and visited this violence on the victim. Micheli concluded that Guede had no interest in returning to modify the crime scene this way and this interest could only be held by someone with access to the house that night and wanted to throw suspicion onto outsiders, and who knew to point investigators to intimate areas of the victim where Guede's DNA might be discovered. In demonstrating this knowledge the alterer(s) of the scene revealed their own presence at the crime as well as Guede's.[4]

DNA findings in Filomena's room

Reps 176 and 177 in Filomena's Room

Meredith's blood tracked to the window at the site of the staged burglary
Knox DNA mixed with Meredith's blood in Filomena's room

Rep 176 was a Luminol trace found to have the victim's DNA, located on the floor near the window. Rep 177 was between the door and the window, containing a Knox/Victim mixed profile. That the victim's blood had been tracked into Filomena's room proved to the satisfaction of the courts that the staging must therefore have taken place after the murder.

The justification has been offered that DNA of occupants might be commonly found in a home; while this makes intuitive sense there were no stray profiles of Filomena herself found in Filomena's bedroom, and certainly not mixed with the victim's blood.

More on the Luminol traces can be found here.



How to Spot a Staged Burglary

The determination of whether a burglary is genuine or simulated is ultimately subjective but there are various criteria that law enforcement are trained to be aware of as these are often associated with staged burglaries. One of the first things to consider is the point of entry.[5][6] Is there any evidence that entry happened?[7] Another important consideration in determining if a burglary is real or staged involves assessing the realism of the search and of the items taken.[8] In cases where the burglary was undertaken in an attempt to misdirect the investigation of a more serious crime, other attempts to misdirect attention is also a indicator that the burglary is staged.[9]

Does the Point of Entry Make Sense?

Cottage1.jpg

The point of entry in the staged burglary was a window 13 feet/4 meters above the ground. The shutters were closed[10] so a hypothetical burglar would first have to climb up to open the shutters. Filomena testified that the wood was swollen and that the shutters made contact with the windowsill making the task of opening them harder.[11] The hypothetical burglar would then have to return to the ground and find a rock to throw at the window. In this case the choice of rock was a 7.9 inches/20 cm wide rock weighing 10 lbs/4,5 kgs.[12] That is a really large rock to throw at a window 13 feet/4 meters up.[13] The hypothetical burglar having broken the window would now have to climb up the wall again and balance on the windowsill to reach through the hole in the glass. He would then have had to push open the internal hinged wooden blackout panel, only being able to tell at this stage that it was in fact unlatched, before he could then reach the window catch and unlatch the window. Then he could enter.[14] This is a very difficult point of entry. Given Rudy's height of 5'10.5"/179 cm[15] it seems unlikely that he could accomplish this entry. An ad hoc attempt to determine if the entry was possible was made by a member of the defense team who was a couple of inches taller than Rudy: he was able to get his hands on the window ledge but did not get any further, nor gain entry through the window.[16] To date, there is no recorded instance of anyone successfully entering the house through that window.

Beyond the difficulty, the point of entry is also illogical because it would have required that the hypothetical burglar have passed easier and better concealed entry points and then chosen this difficult point of entry which was also the most exposed.[17] The hypothetical burglar would have to start at the front door and walk around the side of the cottage down these stairs to the back of the house. There is a door to the lower-floor apartment and a low balcony with the added advantage of privacy that the burglar ignored. Instead he continues past this and chooses to enter from the uppermost window in the third image.


The third image is taken from the road, as is the last one. The window that was used for the staged burglary is completely exposed to the road and is in full view of the parking garage and the entire neighborhood. The balcony door faces a forest, is concealed from all the other residences and can barely be seen from the highway.

The rock is hypothesized by the defense to have been thrown from the driveway across from the window, a distance of about 10 feet and offset slightly.[18] The alleged burglar's route would therefore have to be:

1. Travel round the entire house, bypassing the balcony entrance and climb the exposed wall to open the green exterior shutters;
2. Circle back up to the driveway, collecting a 10-lb rock en route to throw on the first try through the window, which does not alert Kercher.
3. Repeat the route, passing the balcony a third time to attempt the climb in full view of the road.

The cottage has been broken into twice since the murder and, on both occasions, the intruders used the balcony entrance.[19]

Is There Any Evidence of Someone Gaining Entry?

Beyond the difficulty of the entry this particular burglar would have had to manage the double climb entry without leaving any traces. It had rained the night before the murder[20] and Officer Brocci noted that her shoes were dirty and stained with grass from walking around the area below the window.[21] Despite an entry requiring that the burglar climb the wall twice, there was absolutely no sign that anyone had done so.

We observed both the wall...underneath the window and all of the vegetation underneath the window, and we noted that there were no traces on the wall, no traces of earth, of grass, nothing, no streaks, nothing at all, and none of the vegetation underneath the window appeared to have been trampled.[22]

There was no DNA or fingerprints. No dirt in Filomena's room. Absolutely no physical evidence that anyone had been in the garden, climbed the wall, or entered the room.

Windowsill.jpg
The breaking of the window would also give away that the burglary was staged. The distribution of the glass on the windowsill is evenly distributed both on the inside and outside but does not extend beyond the point where the shutters close.[23] There was also no glass on the ground below the window.[24] This is consistent with the window being broken from the inside with the shutters closed. If the window had been broken from the outside glass would have fallen down into the garden and it would not have stopped advancing outward on the windowsill at exactly the point where, if closed, the shutters would have been resting.

A second issue with the homogeneous distribution of the glass on the windowsill is that it clearly indicates that no one entered the cottage though that window. The windowsill was 13 ft / 4 meters above the ground but to unlock the window someone would need to reach the lock that is an additional 2½ feet / 75 cm up. Since one hand would be needed to unlock the latch the thief would need to kneel or stand on the windowsill. The problem with this is that the windowsill is covered in glass.[25] A real burglar would have brushed the glass off the windowsill before trying to climb up onto it. Failing that the result would be that the burglar would cut himself if he used his knees and crush the glass if he stood crouched on the window. Since there was no blood or crushed glass no one could have entered through that window.[26] Give this some thought. You have a window that is 13 feet / 4 meters up. The windowsill is covered in broken shards of glass. How do you manage to climb into this window without either hurting yourself or disturbing the glass?

Was the Search for Valuables Realistic and Do the Items Taken Make Sense?

The items that were tossed on the floor were mostly clothing. Someone had started throwing clothing on the floor but there was no search for valuables undertaken; valuables in plain sight, such as laptop, were untouched.[27] None of the small drawers were opened nor were any of the small portable valuables disturbed.[28] All the thief seemed interested in doing was throwing clothing on the floor to make a mess. Officer Battistelli testified that in his opinion the room looked staged.[29]

Regarding the fake search of the room the court heard from both Officer Battistelli and Filomena Romanelli that the glass from the broken window was on top of the items that were disturbed.[30] One of the items that was disturbed in the simulated burglary was Filomena's laptop bag. When Filomena went to examine her room she saw the relocated laptop bag and that it had glass on top.[31] The only conclusion one can reach is that the room was ransacked before the window was broken. There is no other explanation for why so many of the disturbed items would have glass on top rather than underneath.

Filomena Room 1.jpg
We know that several small electronic items, a laptop, designer sunglasses, multiple designer bags, and Filomena's jewelry were not stolen, or even collected together in preparation for stealing. What was stolen was a set of house keys belonging to Meredith, Meredith's bank cards, and both of Meredith's cellphones which were dumped nearly instantly in a backyard ten minutes from the cottage. What value would any of these items have to a thief? Given Meredith was now murdered you can imagine a real thief would flee with nothing not wishing to risk being found with items connected to such a serious crime. If a thief was going to risk taking something it would be the items of value rather than items that have no value.

Also strange is locking and closing of doors. Meredith's bedroom door was locked. Some might argue that Rudy locked the door to delay the discovery of the body but how would one reconcile that with Rudy leaving the front door completely open? Filomena's door was also closed but Meredith's blood mixed with Amanda's blood was discovered inside that room. Why would a burglar who has just committed a murder enter Filomena's room? It wasn't to get anything because the valuables in plain sight were not touched. Also why close Filomena's door? None of this makes any sense as the behavior of a burglar but this strange behavior is exactly what was required for Amanda Knox to have an even remotely plausible explanation for not calling the police.

Missing Bloody Footprints Makes It Impossible for Rudy to Have Locked the Door

The locking of Meredith's door causes further issues for the claim that Rudy Guede acted alone. Rudy left a series of bloody footprints leading from Meredith's room straight out the front door of the cottage. For Guede to have locked the door it would require that after closing the door he turn and face the door so that he could lock it. That would have created at least one additional bloody footprint that was not present.

In an effort to explore the possibility of Rudy closing and then locking the door behind him without leaving an additional footprint poster Hammerite of the online community PMF enlisted 56 university student volunteers.[32] He placed a scaled grid on the floor with masking tape and video recorded each student making three exits of an identical scaled model of Meredith's bedroom through a door hinged on the right opening inwards with a mortise lock. On the first exit they were told to just leave without closing the door. On the next two exits they were given a set of keys containing a mortise leaver key and a pin tumbler key. Meredith's key ring would have likely had a greater number of keys but for the purpose of the experiment Hammerite limited the choice to a key for the front door and a key for the bedroom. The students were asked to lock the door on the second exit using their right hand and to lock the door on the third exit using their left hand. They were told the pace was urgent and the hallway was well lit. The exits were recorded to video and the foot placement was then transcribed to a hard copy grid representing the hallway.

The results were as expected. All 56 students when asked to exit without closing the door had a foot placement pattern that matched the bloody footprints from the crime scene information available to the public. In every exit where the students were asked to lock the door there was at minimum one additional footprint and up to a maximum of five additional footprints when the student volunteers dropped the keys. The pattern of footprints when the students were asked to lock the door does not match the bloody footprints that Guede left. The beauty of this experiment is that even if you don't have an identical model to work with you can still try this at home. Exit a door and try to lock it behind you. Look at your foot positioning. Is there any realistic way that you can do this without turning to face the door and thus orienting your feet toward the door?

Guede could not have locked the door. If he didn't lock the door then someone else took Meredith's keys and locked the door. That means that Guede could not have acted alone. Someone else was at the cottage and the rest of the evidence proves that that someone else was Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito.

Did Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito Attempt to Divert Attention from Themselves?

An additional indicator not directly associated with the burglar scene that is used to help determine if a burglary is genuine or staged is whether the suspects tried to divert attention to other people by other means. In this case there are at least four such indicators.

  • Amanda Knox falsely accused her previous employer. Prior to falsely accusing her boss Knox had attempted to direct the police toward Hicham Khiri but that was abandoned when it was determined that Khiri was away from Perugia and thus could not have committed the murder.
  • Selective cleaning of the residence took place after the murder. Some bloody footprints were cleaned while others were not. The bathroom was cleaned. Despite all this cleaning other visible footprint were left undisturbed.
  • Amanda Knox upon discovering feces that had been in a toilet of her roommates who were away for the holiday elected to do her hair in a smelly bathroom rather than flush. When the feces appeared to have been flushed Knox had a mini-anxiety attack and when it was rediscovered further down the toilet she was very vigilant in ensuring the police did not forget it.

Why the Staging of the Burglary is Important

The motivation for staging a burglary when a serious crime has happened is always assumed to be an attempt to divert attention from individuals who would normally have access to the property. The logic of this is fairly straightforward. Someone who is not a customary visitor or resident of the property has nothing to gain by misdirecting investigators as to how they gained entry to commit the murder. They are not supposed to be there, so the fact that they managed to gain entry without force is not something that will ever bring suspicion on them. In this case, Judge Massei gave careful consideration to the possibility that Guede might himself have staged the fake break-in, but concluded that he would have had no motive to do so. The people who normally have access to the property on the other hand are greatly motivated to create an alternative explanation for how the murderer entered the property. They know that when there is no explanation for how the attacker gained entry the focus will start with people that the victim knew.

In this case apart from Kercher, Knox was the only person in Perugia that had access to the cottage. It was a holiday in Italy so the two other roommates were away. The boys who lived downstairs, including Meredith's boyfriend, were also away, having returned to Porto San Giorgio to see their families.[33] The only person left was Knox, so when it became apparent that the burglary was staged, suspicion naturally fell on Amanda Knox. There was no one else in Perugia with the motive to interfere with the crime scene so as to misdirect the investigation. This is very strong evidence against Amanda Knox. In the United States staging a burglary even when there is no other evidence linking the person to the crime is sufficient to get a conviction.[34]

Notes

  1. Michele Battistelli's Testimony
  2. See Calling the Emergency Number After Police Had Already Arrived and Suspicious Content of the 112 Calls
  3. The Giordano Sentencing Report, translated by members of Perugiamurderfile.org, says "... the judges of the lower courts have correctly held, that following the murder an activity occurred intended to simulate an attempted theft, which the judges of lower courts and the defense of the same appellant agree was an operation done by others and not by the defendant..." [Our emphasis]
  4. The Micheli Sentencing Report
  5. Chisum, Jerry, Turvey, Brent Crime Reconstruction Academic Press, 2006
  6. Burgess, A. Crime Classification Manual: A Standard System for Investigating and Classifying Violent Crimes Wiley 2006
  7. Chisum, Jerry, Turvey, Brent Crime Reconstruction Academic Press, 2006
  8. Burgess, A. Crime Classification Manual: A Standard System for Investigating and Classifying Violent Crimes Wiley 2006
  9. Burgess, A. Crime Classification Manual: A Standard System for Investigating and Classifying Violent Crimes Wiley 2006
  10. Filomena Romanelli's Testimony. See also Massei report translation, p.48
  11. Filomena Romanelli's Testimony. See also Massei report translation, p.48
  12. Massei report translation, p.49
  13. The balls used in, say, baseball, or cricket, are intended to be the right size and weight for accurate throwing and certainly have the weight to break windows reliably. They weigh 5 or 6 ounces: the rock in question is 25 times heavier! It is heavier than a standard house brick (which is 2.75kg in the UK), and around the weight of the shot used in women's shot put events (4kg).
  14. See detailed analysis, with photographs of the window latching and shutters, posted by Kermit at Truejustice.org
  15. A scan of Guede's identity card was published online by Candace Dempsey at Seattle PI. It gives his height as 179 cm (5'10.5")
  16. See The description and photographs of the attempt at Truejustice.org, posted by Pat Az
  17. Giacinto Profazio's Testimony
  18. Francesco Pasquali's Testimony
  19. A break in that took place in February 2009 is analysed, in detail, including pictures from police video evidence, in a posting by Kermit at Truejustice.org.
  20. Gioia Brocci's Testimony
  21. Gioia Brocci's Testimony
  22. Declarations of Gioia Brocci Massei report translation, p.51 for the complete transcript of Gioia Brocci see Gioia Brocci's Testimony
  23. Massei report translation, p.51
  24. Massei report translation, p.51
  25. Massei report translation, p.51
  26. Massei report translation, p.51
  27. Massei report translation, p.53
  28. Massei report translation, p.53
  29. Michele Battistelli's Testimony See also Massei report translation, p.53
  30. Michele Battistelli's Testimony and Filomena Romanelli's Testimony See also Massei report translation, p.53-54
  31. Filomena Romanelli's Testimony See also Massei report translation, p.53
  32. Results posted at pmf.org, May 9, 2013
  33. Daniele Moscatelli's Testimony
  34. Turvey, Brent "Staged Crime Scenes: A preliminary study of 25 cases" Journal of Behavioral Profiling, December, 2000, Vol. 1, No. 3