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FLORENCE, Italy -- The defense lawyer for the former boyfriend of U.S. exchange student Amanda Knox says the young lovers were blamed for the murder of British student Meredith Kercher to calm local fears that a monster was on the loose.

Lawyer Giulia Bongiorno told an appeals court Thursday that her client, Raffaele Sollecito, and Knox were identified as suspects in a `'record four days after the murder in Perugia because Italian authorities `'did not want to think that a stranger, a monster, could have entered a house and murdered a student.

Bongiorno said much of the evidence later used to convict Sollecito in the first trial had not even been gathered at that point.

Bongiorno spoke on the final day of closing arguments in the third trial of Knox and Sollecito.

The Guardian newspaper reports that Knox, who is living in Seattle, says she s prepared to be a fugitive from justice if the Italian court decides to uphold her murder conviction.

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