- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 5, 2011

SEATTLE — The emotional strain built steadily for years as Amanda Knox sat locked away thousands of miles from her loved ones, all the while maintaining her innocence, wondering whether anyone who mattered would ever believe her.

Knox’s father, Curt, suggested that at least some of that pressure was released when she gained her freedom. “She pretty much squished the air out of us when she hugged us,” he said.

Curt Knox, for the time, is no longer a legal advocate, he’s only a father. And, as Amanda Knox returned to her hometown of Seattle on Tuesday after being acquitted on murder charges after four years in prison, he shifted his concern to her future.

“The focus simply is Amanda’s well-being and getting her re-associated with just being a regular person again,” he said in front of his home in West Seattle.

He said Amanda would like to return to the University of Washington at some point to finish her degree, but for now, he’s apprehensive about what four years in prison may have done to his daughter, though there are no immediate plans for her to get counseling. “What’s the trauma … and when will it show up, if it even shows up?” he said. “She’s a very strong girl, but it’s been a tough time for her.”

The 24-year-old’s life turned around dramatically Monday when an Italian appeals court threw out her conviction in the sexual assault and fatal stabbing of her British roommate. On Tuesday, photos of Amanda Knox crying in the courtroom after the verdict was read appeared on the front pages of newspapers in Italy, the U.S., Britain and around the world.

She was again overcome with emotion as she returned to Seattle for the first time. “Thank you for being there for me,” Knox tearfully told her supporters in front of a crowd of international reporters.

“I’m really overwhelmed right now,” she said at a news conference minutes after she was escorted off a British Airways flight out of London. “I was looking down from the airplane, and it seemed like everything wasn’t real.”

Knox sobbed at the news conference and held her mother’s hand as her lawyer Theodore Simon said her acquittal “unmistakably announced to the world” that she was not responsible for the killing of Meredith Kercher.

After her parents offered their thanks to Knox’s lawyers and supporters, Knox spoke briefly, saying, “They’re reminding me to speak in English, because I’m having problems with that.”

“Thank you to everyone who’s believed in me, who’s defended me, who’s supported my family,” she said.

“My family’s the most important thing to me so I just want to go and be with them, so, thank you for being there for me,” she said before she and her family left.

Knox’s acquittal, 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 Kercher, 21. But for Knox’s grandmother Elisabeth Huff, “it was like the weight of the world had gone.”

“We all are as happy as can be. I can’t tell you how long we’ve been looking forward to this day,” Huff told The Associated Press outside her home in West Seattle, a tight-knit community a few miles across Elliott Bay from downtown.

Knox was studying abroad in Perugia when Kercher was killed in 2007.

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