Amanda Knox Acquittal: What Now for the Family of Meredith Kercher?

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Giorgio Benvenu / Reuters

Meredith Kercher's mother Arline, sister Stephanie and brother Lyle attend a news conference in Perugia, Italy, on Oct. 3, 2011

Amanda Knox sobbed uncontrollably as a judge read out her acquittal. Several rows behind her, the family of Meredith Kercher stared ahead in silence.

For Kercher’s grieving family, the appeal process has reopened old wounds and poured more uncertainty onto the events surrounding the death of their beloved Meredith, who was found semi-naked and with her throat slashed in November 2007. “Ultimately, while we accept the decision that was handed down and respect the court and the justice system, we do now find that we are left looking at this all over again,” Kercher’s brother Lyle said at a news conference in Perugia on Tuesday morning. “For us it feels like back to square one, and the search goes on for what really happened.”

(VIDEO: Amanda Knox Reacts as Her Sentence Is Overturned)

If earlier court rulings have any credibility, that search will involve identifying the accomplices who allegedly helped Rudy Guede, a small-time drug trafficker, take Kercher’s life. A court convicted Guede of the murder in 2008, concluding that he was assisted by Knox and her former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito. Guede lost two subsequent appeals, and in both cases the courts accepted that he did not act alone. For the Kerchers, the Monday-night verdict raises an obvious question, which Lyle publicly posed: “If those two are not the guilty parties, then who are the guilty people?”

Prosecutors seem bent on proving that Guede had help — despite the fact that copious amounts of his DNA were found on Kercher’s body. In a statement made early in the investigation, he said Knox and Sollecito were not at the apartment when Kercher died. On Tuesday, Italian prosecutors said they would file an appeal with the country’s Supreme Court.

During the Tuesday-morning press conference, the Italian media probed the Kerchers about their relationship with the Knoxes, who have reportedly never reached out to Meredith’s family. Perhaps inappropriately, one journalist asked whether the family could “forgive” Knox for what happened. “You can’t really forgive something if they haven’t admitted anything,” Lyle said. “What would we be forgiving? At the moment, we need to have a mutual respect for each other and have a distance between us and try and bring some normality back in our lives.”

(LIST: Top Tweets About the Amanda Knox Verdict)

The media’s portrayal of a supposed rift between the families reflects their different approaches to the case. Fighting to prove that their daughter was innocent, the Knox family hired a p.r. consultant and spoke with media in Italy, Britain and the U.S. hoping to prove she wasn’t the “sex-crazed she-devil” that the prosecution portrayed. For their part, the Kerchers largely avoided the media and carried themselves with a quiet dignity. But withdrawing into themselves and avoiding the spotlight may have contributed to the overwhelming focus on Knox — a reality they now say bothers them. Speaking to an Italian TV show on Sept. 22, Kercher’s younger sister Stephanie said she worried about forgetting what her sister looked like and regretted that the world seemed to have forgotten about the victim. “In these four years, Meredith has been completely forgotten,” she said. “There’s not much Meredith in the media. There aren’t photos of her in the media. The focus has completely moved away from Meredith to Amanda and Raffaele.”

With acquittal comes more of the same. In Britain, the Daily Mail published a large photo of Knox sobbing at her acquittal, with the headline, “Weeping Foxy Is Freed to Make a Fortune.” The Guardian published the same photo with an altogether more sympathetic headline: “The nightmare is over.”

Surely the Kerchers wish they could say the same. “We’re still absorbing it,” Meredith’s mother Arline said on Tuesday morning. “You think you’ve come to a decision, and now it’s been overturned.”

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William Lee Adams is a staff writer at the London bureau of TIME. Find him on Twitter at @willyleeadams. You can also continue the discussion on TIME‘s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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