- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 4, 2011

LONDON — After Italian prisoners gave her a boisterous goodbye, Amanda Knox made her way home to America on Tuesday, holing up with family on the upper deck of a jetliner to Seattle as she enjoyed her first full day of freedom since her murder conviction was reversed.

Reporters on board the British Airways flight hoping to talk to Knox, now a tabloid staple on two continents, were blocked on the stairs by a flight attendant who politely informed them that the family would speak publicly only after the plane touched down at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. It was unclear whether Knox herself would speak then.

Knox’s life, spent in prison for the last four years, turned around dramatically Monday when an Italian appeals court threw out her murder conviction in the death of her British roommate. The decision, fueled by doubts over DNA evidence, stunned the victim’s family and angered the prosecution, which insists that she was among three people who killed 21-year-old Meredith Kercher.

Knox left Perugia’s Capanne prison Monday night amid cheers that a companion compared to those at a soccer stadium.

Hundreds of inmates — most of them in the men’s wing — shouted “Amanda, ciao!” and “Freedom!” as she walked into the central courtyard, said Corrado Maria Daclon, head of the Italy-US Foundation, which championed Knox’s cause.

“They were screaming like crazy,” said Daclon, who accompanied Knox in her first hours of freedom. Dalcon said Knox jumped a little for joy and waved to the prisoners.

She was soon on her way home, protected by the darkened windows of a Mercedes that led her out of the prison in the middle of the night, and then Tuesday morning to Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci airport.

“Those who wrote, those who defended me, those who were close, those who prayed for me,” Knox wrote in a letter released just hours before leaving the country, “I love you.”

Knox thanked those Italians “who shared my suffering and helped me survive with hope,” in a letter to the Italy-US Foundation, which seeks to promote ties between the two countries.

“During the trip from Perugia to Rome, Amanda was serene,” said Daclon, who was with Knox in the car.

Knox flew from Rome to London, where she took a direct flight to Seattle, flying business class with full-length seat and menu options including champagne, smoked salmon and prawn salad.

At least nine members of media organizations were on board, but a British Airways attendant on the flight blocked them from the plane’s secluded upper deck “to preserve the privacy” of passengers. The attendant, quoting a Knox family member, said media were not allowed to contact Knox or her family on the flight but were welcome to attend a press conference later in Seattle.

“WELCOME HOME AMANDA,” read the marquee at a record store in the neighborhood where Knox grew up. Another welcome sign was hung at her father’s house.

“We always talked about what we would do when she gets home,” said her uncle Michael Huff. “… She wanted to lay down on the lawn, her grass.”

Huff said his niece was able to handle her ordeal because “she’s a strong kid. She’s unbelievable.” ”We always knew that she was innocent. It was trying to get the court to see that,” Huff said. “The defense team did a fantastic job to show that.”

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