Updated at: 03/26/2013 6:39 PM
By PHUONG LE
(AP) SEATTLE - Since Amanda Knox was acquitted of murder in Italy, she has tried to return to the life she knew before becoming an international media sensation.
But her effort to keep a low profile as a college student in her hometown of Seattle was upended Tuesday, when Italy’s highest criminal court overturned her acquittal in the slaying of British student Meredith Kercher and ordered a new trial.
Knox said it was "painful" news after the trial showed the prosecution case was unfounded and unfair.
"My family and I will face this continuing legal battle as we always have, confident in the truth and with our heads held high in the face of wrongful accusations and unreasonable adversity," the 25-year-old said in a prepared statement Tuesday.
Italian law cannot compel Knox to return for the new trial, and family spokesman David Marriott said it’s "very doubtful" that Knox will make the trip.
Instead, she will continue to attend the University of Washington, where she is a junior, he said. No public appearances were immediately planned.
Candace Dempsey, a Seattle journalist and author of "Murder in Italy," a book about Knox, was stunned by the Italian high court decision.
"Of course it’s an absolute nightmare for her and her family," said Dempsey, who has talked with Knox since she returned to Seattle in late 2011. "I think we’re seeing who she really is _ that she’s not the drug-crazed, sex-hungry American girl that the prosecutors have fantasized."
Italian prosecutors had said Knox and Sollecito killed Kercher in a drug-fueled sex assault involving a third man. They maintained the murder weapon was a large knife taken from Sollecito’s house. Prosecutors said the knife matched the wounds on Kercher’s body and had traces of Kercher’s DNA on the blade and Knox’s DNA on the handle.
However, Knox’s defenders said she was innocent, caught up in the complexities of the Italian judicial system and forced to say things she didn’t mean during a lengthy police interrogation. And they said bumbling Italian police contaminated the crime scene, producing flawed DNA evidence.
Knox served four years in an Italian prison before an appeals court threw out her conviction in October 2011.
Knox has since largely avoided the public spotlight and is mostly left alone in her Pacific Northwest hometown known for its rain, stunning water and mountain views, and polite but restrained residents.
John Lange, Knox’s high school drama teacher, said he saw her last summer and she seemed good.
"She was happy," he said. "She seemed like she had gotten her good youthful spirit back, and was enjoying college, old friends and her family."
Amanda’s father, Curt Knox, cited the statement by his daughter and declined further comment Tuesday.
Asked how she’s faring, he said, "I think it will be portrayed in the statement."
Knox grew up in West Seattle, a tight-knit neighborhood known for a slower pace of life than other parts of the city.
She graduated from the private Explorer West Middle School in 2001 then earned a scholarship to Seattle Preparatory School.
At the University of Washington, Knox studied writing and foreign languages and enjoyed rock climbing, hiking, camping and other outdoor activities offered in the Northwest.
Since her return, she has occasionally been seen with her boyfriend, a musician. But the local media largely leaves her alone, as do most residents.
"Having this renewed spotlight must be particularly unsettling," said Tom Wright, whose daughter attended high school with Knox. With parents and other people, Wright helped start the Friends of Amanda Knox group.
"Our group pretty much disbanded when she came home and if necessary we’ll reconstitute ourselves and advocate for her again," he said. "Everybody who cares about this young lady continues to believe in her innocence, and believes the court will make the right decision."
Mark Waterbury, a materials scientist interested in forensic techniques, has been a Knox supporter and wrote the book "The Monster of Perugia: The Framing of Amanda Knox."
"It just amazes me that the system drags on for such a long period of time, when the case would have been thrown out in the United States long ago," he said. "It leaves the public without a positive resolution, so it leaves a cloud hanging over her head."
Knox’s self-imposed silence could be coming to an end with the scheduled release late next month of her memoir. Her book deal with HarperCollins was reportedly worth $4 million.
Knox also planned to talk with ABC News celebrity interviewer Diane Sawyer in a prime-time special to be broadcast April 30 to promote the book, "Waiting to Be Heard."
ABC News spokesman David Ford said Tuesday the interview was moving forward as planned.
If Knox is convicted and Italy requests her extradition, it would be up to U.S. authorities to decide whether they will send Knox to Italy.
Associated Press writers Shannon Dininny in Yakima, Wash., and Manuel Valdes in Seattle contributed to this story.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)