ROME – New, bloody fingerprints have been discovered on the pillow of a British student found slain in her bedroom in the Italian university town of Perugia earlier this month, a lawyer for the victim's family said Saturday.
The same person's prints were also found on toilet paper in the house where the body of Meredith Kercher, 21, was found by police on Nov. 2, said the lawyer, Francesco Maresca, in a telephone interview from Florence. He did not know whether the prints belonged to a potential new suspect in the case, but said they did not belong to any of the three suspects now jailed in the investigation.
Milan daily Corriere della Sera reported that one of the prints on Kercher's pillow was that of a man's thumb, but Maresca said he had no details about the prints, including whether they were believed to be those of a man.
"One step away from (finding) a fourth" suspect, was the headline on the Turin newspaper La Stampa's story about the fingerprint development.
Kercher's 20-year-old American roommate, Amanda Marie Knox, and Knox's 23-year-old Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, are being held in a Perugia jail as suspects in the woman's sexual assault and fatal stabbing. Also jailed in the case is a 38-year-old Congolese man, Diya "Patrick" Lumumba, who runs a pub that was frequented by the American.
No charges have been filed. But the Italian judge who upheld the suspects' detentions said last week that there were "serious indications of guilt" — enough to keep them behind bars for up to a year.
All three suspects have denied involvement in the killing.
Knox has told investigators that Lumumba was infatuated with Kercher and was in the British woman's bedroom in the hours before the victim was killed, but Lumumba has denied being in the house.+
One of Lumumba's lawyers, Carlo Pacelli, told reporters Saturday that the defense is seeking further scientific analysis to better establish how and precisely when Kercher was killed, including a possible new autopsy on the body, which was flown to Britain on Nov. 11.
The body has not yet been buried, Maresca said.
"In a word, they are seeking to know ... the exact hour, the moment of death," as well as more details on the cause, Maresca said.
Based on the autopsy by the Perugia coroner and accounts by Kercher's friends of when she ate dinner with them on Nov. 1, the woman is believed to have died between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. on Nov. 1, according to court papers filed by the judge who ordered the three suspects held.
The state of digestion of a victim's last meal is commonly used in helping to determine time of death.
Maresca said it is now believed that Kercher "might have eaten something in the house" after she returned from dinner. If the food found in Kercher's digestive system turns out to be from her after-dinner consumption and not from the dinner with her friends, it would make the time of death later.
A later time of death could help Lumumba since he has claimed he was in the pub later in the evening. Investigators have found cash register receipts to confirm the night spot was operating in late evening.
Maresca said a court order was issued on Saturday authorizing two outside experts to be engaged to study remains of fingernails, tissue and other biological traces of the crime scene that have been preserved on slides.