Italy: New Suspect in Sex Murder

In an already shocking case, the shocking details just keep on coming. Police in the Italian city of Perugia have now arrested a fourth suspect in the "extreme sex” murder of 21-year-old British student Meredith Kercher. The detained man is 21-year-old Rudy Hermann Guede, an immigrant from the Ivory Coast who authorities say has spent most of his life in Italy. According to investigators, Guede's blood-soaked fingerprints were found on a pillowcase in Kercher's bedroom and on a piece of toilet tissue in the bathroom of the house Kercher shared with Amanda Knox, the 20-year-old Seattle student held in connection with the murder. Investigators say that Guede's DNA was also found on Kercher's body, and police identified his waste in a toilet in the students' villa.

Guede was arrested early Tuesday morning on a train near Mainz, Germany. An Interpol spokesman said that they were able to track Guede's whereabouts after tracing the computer IP address he used to respond to a journalist from Britain's Daily Telegraph via his Facebook page late last night. Under Europe's Schengen Agreement, Guede will automatically be extradited to Perugia, where he will be questioned by investigators about his involvement in the murder.

According to locals in Perugia, Guede was no stranger to Kercher or Knox. He also was said to be acquainted with Knox's boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito and Congolese bar owner Patrick Lumumba, both of whom are also being held on suspicion of Kercher's murder. A neighbor, Stefano Bonassi, told the British newspaper the Telegraph that a man he identified as Guede was often seen at the little villa on Via della Pergola where Kercher was killed. Bonassi told the Telegraph that he had found Guede in the students' house "completely drunk and attracted to both Amanda and Meredith." Known locally as "the baron," Guede was said to be a fixture among the foreign student population, and police say he has a criminal record for selling drugs—something that allowed them to match his prints with those in the house. Locals also say he was a regular client at Lumumba's club, Le Chic. The Italian press reported that Guede disappeared in the days following Kercher's murder, telling friends, "I'm going dancing in Milan."

As police hunted for Guede early this week, they continued to release further details about the gruesome sexual torture and murder. Police now say that "unequivocal proof" shows that Kercher did not die on her bed, as was previously thought, but was forced to kneel in front of a closet in her bedroom as she was sexually assaulted and her throat was cut. Police hypothesize that her body was then dragged across the room, where it was found under the flowered duvet from her bed. Investigators also said that both Knox and Sollecito made reference to "the wardrobe" in their initial interrogations, and that those statements were "psychologically significant," since Kercher's body was found across the room. The fatal stab wound, say police, was in fact inflicted in front of the closet. A coroner's report says that Kercher was probably conscious in the two hours that it took for her to bleed to death, but that the nature of her injuries made it impossible for her to call for help.

Guede's alleged involvement seems unlikely to lead to the release of Knox or Sollecito, though Lumumba's attorney told reporters that he expected his client to be released on bond this week due to lack of forensic evidence tying him to the villa. The three in custody have denied the allegations, but a judge's report released last week said that there was sufficient "evidence of guilt" in their stories to warrant holding them for up to a year without charge. No fingerprints or DNA found at the villa have been identified as Lumumba's. Still, electronic tagging placed his cell phone's SIM card in the vicinity of the students' home between 8:30 and 10:30 that evening. Nor does anyone dispute that Lumumba had some sort of interest in Kercher; police say their records show numerous calls to her cell phone in the days leading up to her murder. Sollecito's defense team says their client stands by his initial testimony to investigators—that he was home surfing the Internet the night of the murder, and that Knox came to his house around 1 a.m. His attorney says that on Monday police found that a thorough search of his computer's hard drive confirmed that someone had been online on that computer during the night of the murder.

Still, police announced last week that they had found a kitchen knife in Sollecito's home with Kercher's DNA near the blade and Knox's DNA near the handle. The knife, according to two Italian women who shared the villa on Via della Pergola with Kercher and Knox, was not part of the villa's kitchen cutlery. On Sunday police said they had confiscated Knox's handbag from her possessions at the Perugia prison where she is being held to test it for DNA that would indicate whether it had been used to carry the knife.

Investigators also said the knife had been bleached (bleach removes blood but not DNA, investigators said at a press conference), and that they had found receipts in Sollecito's apartment dated Nov. 2—the morning after the murder—for the purchase of two liters of bleach. Meanwhile, though Guede's testimony could be crucial to the investigation, it will do little to ease the shock of the killing in the once-sleepy medieval town of Perugia. Nor is the news that the wanted man is a foreigner likely to ease Italy's growing resentment toward immigrants. "Knowing exactly what happened," says Perugia newsstand operator Alessia Ceccarelli, "is not going to make this nightmare go away."

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