Saturday December 7, 2013
What Really Happened to Meredith Kercher?Ron Hendry for Salem-News.com
Reconstruction Shows the Details of What Happened.
(DALLAS, Tx.) - As Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito prepare to appeal their convictions for murdering Meredith Kercher, a forensic expert has stepped forward with a detailed and precise reconstruction of the crime.
Ron Hendry is blunt in his conclusion: "Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito would never have been regarded as persons of interest – much less suspects – had the police correctly done their job from the start," he says.
Hendry is a forensic engineer whose specialty is accident reconstruction. He has analyzed upwards of 2,000 civil cases and testified many times with regard to his opinions. He has interfaced with and reviewed the work of police investigators on many cases.
"Typically, with major accidents, the police have little time to spend on a job before having to move on," Hendry explains. "I come behind them and usually spend a great deal more time. In cases that occurred months or years before I was brought in, the most relevant evidence is a set of photos of the accident scene. My technique is to study these photos intensely and then acquire enough information to do a scale layout. My approach is to analyze and interpret the physical evidence and review how it corresponds with witness accounts. I never start with witness accounts in any analysis."
Hendry has studied photos and videos from the Meredith Kercher murder scene, and he has applied his reconstruction methodology to figure out exactly what happened. Meredith was killed inside a small room with a regular grid of floor tiles – a setting well suited to Hendry's approach.
"I made a scale layout of the room, using the floor tiles to determine the exact location of bloodstains and other elements of the crime scene," he explains. "I took a slow, methodical approach. I spent dozens of hours poring over the photos, looking at the details that reveal what happened."
Hendry ended up with a reconstruction that shows precisely where and how Meredith and her attacker were positioned in the room at every phase of the brief struggle that ended her life. The confrontation began next to the bed, he says. Meredith stood up, the attacker seized her, and he quickly established a secure grip from behind her, with a knife blade pointed at the right side of her neck. During this initial struggle, they tripped over a small rug.
The first stab wounds were shallow, and Hendry thinks the assailant may not have intended to kill her at that point. Something happened, however, to escalate the violence. Meredith and her attacker spun diagonally across the room. A violent struggle ensued next to the only window in the tiny room, during which the assailant tore at Meredith's hair. Then, the unspeakable happened. The attacker forced Meredith to her knees and plunged his knife up to the hilt in the left side of her throat.
"It is obvious that this attack was the work of one enraged man, who acted entirely alone," says Hendry. He explains that in such a tiny space, the presence of multiple attackers would have been easy to detect, because they could not have avoided stepping in blood. They would also have blocked some of the blood spatter that ended up on the floor and on the door of the wardrobe closet.
In reconstructing the murder, Hendry also uncovered a stunning forensic blunder made by police. "I determined that blood stains found under the bed, 47 days after the crime, could not have been deposited when Meredith was killed, because there were objects in the way."
The police knew this, says Hendry, but they made a fundamental mistake in their analysis. They concluded that the objects were put there after the murder to cover those blood stains, as part of a staging activity. But Hendry's analysis revealed that the truth is quite different.
"The police created these bloodstains themselves," he says. "Photos show that they ransacked the room after the murder, and they carelessly tossed a pair of blood-soaked boots under the bed with other footwear.
"When they removed this footwear from under the bed, they found the stains made by blood that had not yet dried when the boots were moved and had dripped onto the floor. They looked at pictures taken the day Meredith was found, saw that a shopping bag was covering the floor at the spot where the stains were located, and jumped to exactly the wrong conclusion."
It was a useful error for the prosecution, Hendry notes, because it helped them frame two innocent people. They submitted a police report containing the grossly misinterpreted stain analysis to the court, and it became part of the evidence through which Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito were convicted.
Hendry says the key to understanding what happened to Meredith lies in an outside-in approach – looking at the big picture before trying to determine the meaning of each detail. The overall view of the Meredith Kercher murder scene is that of a burglary that turned into a robbery assault and finally became a sexual assault and murder.
"Every element of this crime scene points to an outside intruder," says Hendry. "For starters, the forced entry was real, not staged. I have looked at many accidents involving broken windows, and the spray of glass on the floor shows clearly that this window was broken exactly the way it appears, by someone heaving a rock from outside."
Hendry says a close examination of the details supports the view that Meredith inadvertently walked in on a burglary. Crime scene photos show a fleece jacket turned inside-out and soaked with blood, indicating that she had not had time to remove it after arriving home. Phone records show that she made an aborted call to her mother in the UK just after the time her friend walked her home, which Hendry cites as further evidence that the attack took place minutes, if not seconds, after she stepped through the door. Finally, the strength and leverage needed to inflict the elongated wound in Meredith's neck, along with the torn bra straps, suggest she was attacked by an enraged male.
"It was a brutal, depraved murder," says Hendry. "Unfortunately, the killer, Rudy Guede, has escaped full accountability for this horrible crime because two innocent persons have been convicted along with him."
How certain is Hendry that his analysis is correct? He puts it this way:
"In my profession, opposing expert reports and opinions are commonplace. But in this case, there's little room for doubt.
"I believe I have solved the mystery of what happened to Meredith Kercher. I can fully explain and document every detail of my analysis."
A step by step reconstruction of what happened in Meredith Kercher’s room
This article contains graphic crime scene photographs and a graphic detailed description of the crime.
It is possible to look at the facts and the evidence surrounding this crime and reconstruct what happened, with the understanding that the reconstruction is broadly accurate but not perfect.
We do not know Rudy’s motivations for the acts he committed. We do know he had alienated the family that tried to help him get started in life, and he had no known job or means of financial support. He was caught after breaking and entering a building in Milan, and at that time, he was in possession of property stolen in another burglary. It therefore seems likely that theft was his main intent on the night of November 2, 2007, at least initially.
Following is what appears to have happened: After entering the cottage at about 8:50 pm, Rudy begins to go through Filomena Romanelli's room. He also takes a quick look in Laura Mezzeti's room, where he leaves a drawer partly open. While looking around in the place, he realizes he needs to use a toilet, so he goes to the nearby bathroom. After a couple of minutes, he hears a sound at the front door and realizes someone has come home. Meredith Kercher arrives at the front door of her apartment flat at about 8:55 pm. She is wearing a blue zippered Adidas jacket over a thin, off-white long sleeved sweatshirt with a tee shirt overlay. She is also wearing blue jeans and red and white Puma shoes. Meredith is carrying an off-white shoulder bag, which contains, among other things, a book she has borrowed from a friend. Upon entering she locks the door from the inside and walks straight to her room.
There, she walks to the far wall and turns on the overhead light. She tosses the borrowed book and a notebook on the bed and hooks the shoulder bag on the desk chair. It is 8:56 pm. Meredith now gets out the cell phone she uses to call her family and friends in the UK, sits down on the edge of her bed, and initiates a call to her mother.
For reasons only Rudy knows, he makes the decision to go to Meredith's room, neglecting to flush the toilet lest he lose the element of surprise. Armed with a sharp pocketknife, he bursts into the room and confronts Meredith. She stands up, but Rudy grabs her before she can react defensively. She pulls away, but he turns her around and brings her flush against his body. This early struggle results in lateral contact with the bed frame and mattress and possibly the corner of the nightstand.
Once Rudy has Meredith under control from behind, he positions the tip of his knife against the right side of her throat. He makes three knife wounds to the right side of the throat during this initial phase of the struggle, with one being a stab wound that penetrates about 1-1/2 inches. Meredith instantly begins bleeding and raises her right hand to the wounds.
Rudy’s intent with these initial knife wounds may be to subdue and control his victim rather than to kill her. But as the struggle moves across the room toward the window near the desk, it becomes more violent. Either Rudy is consumed with an urge to kill, or he cannot control Meredith any other way, or he realizes she has recognized him.
Eventually Meredith falls to her knees. Rudy, still on his feet, straddles her from behind. From this vantage point, he grabs her jawbone with the fingers of his left hand, pulling her head back Then, with his right hand, he stabs her throat and drives the knife blade to its full depth. He pulls the blade upward until the wound is 3 inches in length. Large quantities of blood immediately flood onto his hand and his pants.
Rudy releases Meredith’s head and steps back as she collapses and begins to eject a large volume of blood onto the floor in front of the wardrobe closet. The initial blood deposits are likely oriented in the direction of the nightstand. Meredith attempts to crawl in a clockwise direction, propped on her right hand while clutching her left hand to her throat. She probably remains fully conscious for only a minute or so.
With the struggle over, Rudy seizes the collar of the blue sweatshirt Meredith is wearing and pulls her toward the nightstand, leaving a heavy trail of blood. After moving her upper body for about 1-1/2 feet in a counterclockwise arc, the jacket begins to come off, and she is caught up in the mat on the floor, so Rudy tosses it toward the desk.
The photo above shows the counterclockwise blood trail beginning at the lower right arrow and then changes appearance at the other arrow. The large area free of blood where marker L is located was likely where the floor mat had earlier been. A small portion of the floor mat is visible beside the tennis shoe.
He then grasps the left sleeve of the sweatshirt to pull Meredith until she is face down on the floor with her head on the left side of the wardrobe closet. At this point, she makes a final attempt to rise, grasping the open wardrobe with her left hand.
The bloody hand swipe markings seen in the photo above were likely left by Meredith’s left hand in a final attempt to stand up.
Rudy begins to disrobe Meredith. He pulls the blue Adidas sweatshirt downward until it comes off, turning the sleeves inside out. He then removes her shoes and socks before rolling her onto her back, at which point she aspirates some blood onto the side of the wardrobe.
The photo above shows the aspiration blood drops and the hand markings at the arrows were left after Meredith had been moved to her final position on the floor.
He then pulls both shirt layers up over her bra, at which point she aspirates blood onto her bra. He then rips her bra off with force causing the bra to separate at the threaded seams.
After her bra is removed, Meredith aspirates blood onto her exposed upper body.
Next Rudy pulls her pants and underwear off. At this point, she has completely lost consciousness,
Rudy grabs the pillow and places it under Meredith's hips. In lifting up Meredith’s hips to slide the pillow under her, he steps on the pillow several times. His bloody fingerprint will later be found on the pillow along with his shoe prints.
Blood is now beginning to run down beside the nightstand and also toward the wardrobe closet. Rudy finds a couple of towels, perhaps making a trip to the bathroom. He uses them to wipe away blood. He then performs some form of sexual assault that leaves his epithelial DNA, but no semen, inside her body.
The photo above of the duvet shows a series of four butterfly blood stains inferring placement next to blood source such as Meredith’s throat and lateral movement.
When Rudy is finished in the bedroom, he heads into the bathroom, steps out of his right shoe and washes the blood off the top of the shoe in the bidet. Then he wipes the excess blood off himself and his pants. He leaves a number of stains made with diluted blood on the blue rug in the bathroom. One of them is a partial footprint. He also leaves diluted bloodstains in the basin of the bidet.
The photo above shows the print that was left on the bathmat in the bathroom. This print was made in bloody water.
Rudy returns to Meredith’s room, where he searches through her handbag and possibly the nightstand and carry bag on the floor. He takes money, credit cards, keys and cell phones. Rudy’s DNA will later be found on the handbag. He locks the door to Meredith’s room, leaves bloody shoe prints running down the corridor toward the exit, where he opens the front door with Meredith’s key and walks out into the night. In all likelihood, no more than half an hour has elapsed from the time she arrived home.
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