Pier Paolo Cito/AP
Stephen M. Silverman and Dana Kennedy
October 04, 2011 07:00 AM

After four years in an Italian jail, Amanda Knox reportedly boarded a British Airways flight with her family at Rome’s Leonardo Da Vinci Airport late Tuesday morning.

They are bound for London to connect to a flight to Seattle as the 24-year-old samples her first taste of freedom since the murder convictions against her and onetime boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito were overturned in a Perugia court late Monday night.

Before leaving – Knox had checked out of Capanne Prison within two hours after the court decision – she thanked those “who shared my suffering and helped me survive with hope,” she said in a letter to the Italy-U.S. Foundation, which seeks to promote ties between the two countries and has supported Knox throughout her ordeal.

“Those who wrote, those who defended me,” Knox wrote. “I love you, Amanda.”

RELATED: Amanda Knox’s ‘Nightmare Is Over,’ Says Sister

The Knox family, whose swift getaway from Italy was coordinated in part by former FBI agent Steve Moore, a longtime Knox supporter, ran into one small snag Monday night: They almost forgot to bring along Madison Paxton, Amanda’s best friend who had moved to Perugia to be closer to her friend and lend support during weekly prison visits.

Knox, a foreign exchange student from Seattle, and Sollecito were convicted in 2009 of the 2007 murder of her British roommate Meredith Kercher.

Prosecution Will Appeal

What looms ahead for Amanda remains to be seen. The prosecution in the case, which had painted her as a monster and sought to extend her prison sentence from 26 years to life, says it will appeal Monday’s decision, reports the BBC, noting that it seems unlikely Knox would be extradited back to Italy from the U.S.

Monday night’s stunning decision, which followed Amanda’s taking the stand Monday morning to proclaim her innocence, is being credited to both the public outcry against Amanda’s imprisonment and key DNA evidence that was found to be unreliable.

Francesco Sollecito, Raffaele Sollecito’s father, said after the decision that he had “allowed himself some tears” and the court has “given me back my son.”

RELATED: Amanda Knox Wins Murder Appeal, Goes Free

In a separate earlier trial, a third party, Rudy Guede, 24, was convicted of Kercher’s murder and sentenced to 30 years in prison. That was later reduced to 16 years.

Shortly after the decision, the Kercher family held a press conference in Perugia.

“We want to say we accept the decision but we are also looking at how a decision so certain a few years ago should be overturned,” Lyle Kercher, brother of Meredith, told reporters. “Rudy Guede’s appeal was upheld by the court and the court agreed he wasn’t acting alone. So, if those two aren’t guilty, who are the others? We’re back at Square One, and the search goes on to find out what really happened.”

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