According to Nina Burliegh, author of A Fatal Gift of Beauty: The Trials of Amanda Knox, Rudy Hermann Guede was born on Christmas Eve, 1985 in Agou, a town on the Ivory Coast of Africa near the city of Abidjan. His father, Roger Guede, was from the Bete clan, a Christian tribe on the Ivory Coast where the culture is strongly divided between Christian and Muslim. Although a Christian, Roger Guede was a practicing polygamist and Rudy has a half brother remaining in Agou, born within weeks of Rudy’s own birth.
Rudy’s mother apparently lacked maternal instincts. Rudy was sent as an infant to live with his father’s sister, Georgette, who performed the role of his only real parent. Rudy’s mother never had any other children and makes her living today as a novelty merchant in an Abidjan bizarre.
The Ivory Coast is a French speaking area of Africa, so Rudy was raised until he was 5, speaking French and patois.
Roger Guede’s father was a ranking officer in the Ivory Coast military. Roger had a talent for numbers and was training in a college for mathematics when his father died suddenly. After his father’s death, there were not sufficient funds for Roger to continue his education. He was bitterly disappointed and came to believe if he could immigrate to Russia he would be able to complete his degree with government assistance from that country. He was not, however, able to secure a Russian visa.
Someone advised him that a Russian visa might be easier to obtain if he fist immigrated to Italy. Roger arrived in Italy in November of 1987, but quickly realized that he would not be allowed to go to Russia. Roger enrolled in a school for masonry, became a stone mason and brick layer and has made a good living at these trades for 20 years. He owns several houses and real estate on the Ivory Coast paid for with the money he earns at his trade in Italy.
Roger brought Rudy to live in Perugia in 1990, when Rudy was 5. He apparently had little interest in the child. Rudy’s teacher, Ivana Tiberi, noticed that the little boy came to school in winter dressed in only a tee shirt and shorts. Mrs. Tiberi, on meeting Roger Guede, decided that he was too immature to take care of a child and organized teachers and parents to take turns caring for Rudy after school until his father finished work. They also purchased clothes for the boy, especially his all-important suit for First Communion. Mrs. Tiberi’s son, Gabriel, ten years older than Rudy, was like a brother to him and apparently cared deeply about him. He says of Rudy today, that he had many friends and many people loved him. He claims that Rudy was polite, never expressed anger, was melancholic and non-violent.
These people who loved him, however, apparently did not include his father. Roger punished Rudy by locking him out of the house. The child could frequently be seen wandering the streets of Perugia late at night. Rudy has also accused his father of physical abuse, beating him with a stick for example. At the time of Rudy’s arrest for the Kercher murder, his jailers were instructed to deny his father any access to him.
Rudy found substitute father figures in the priest who officiated at his First Communion, and several basketball coaches who recognized innate talent for that sport in the child.
In 1997, at age 12, Rudy returned to Abidjan to vacation with his mother. Whatever occurred during that trip, Rudy afterwards refused to ever go back.
In 2004, Roger returned to the Ivory Coast for a brief vacation, and lost his passport. He became entangled in a Muslim uprising against Christians, narrowly avoided execution, and was unable to return to Italy for 7 months.
During this time, Rudy was supposed to be living in Italy with Roger’s common-law wife but the two did not like each other. The wife had several small children of her own and had little time for an uncooperative teenager. Rudy was enrolled in a vocational high school for the hotel industry. He stopped coming home at night and he stopped going to school.
There’s no suggestion what Rudy was doing at this time or who he was with when he left home. Once again Ivana Tiberi stepped in to help him. She introduced Rudy to Paolo Barbini, coach of Perugia’s semipro basketball team. Rudy became a valuable asset to the team. From his jail cell he wrote this letter to Barbini which Ms. Burleigh uses as a chapter introduction:
“What can I say of the games we won and lost together? It was great when we went to the away games in the Mitico minibus. There was laughter on board with Segoloni, who called me “Little Chocolate.” God. What beautiful moments… I remember also from that time that I knew that little all-black dog that you found abandoned and took to your house and that often I took him for a walk… What can I say, Paolo? It would be a lot to remember, but these pages wouldn’t be enough… I thank you, Paolo, your Wife and Son… Your Son Francesco (THE BROTHER I WOULD HAVE WANTED TO HAVE). And that little black dog.”
Through his work on the basketball team Rudy became friends with the son of wealthy entrepreneur, Paolo Caporali, owner of the Liomatic Vending Company, a company that made and maintained vending machines primarily for coffee. Caporali was the wealthiest person in Perugia and Liomatic owned the basketball team, and the gym in which they played and practiced. Rudy became friends with the children, who, after becoming familiar with Rudy’s circumstances, petitioned their father to adopt Rudy until he turned 18. Rudy was 16 at this time.
Iliana Caporali was Rudy Guede’s adopted sister for 3 years. She remembers him as a sweet, shy boy who was afraid of the dark. She says he was affectionate, loved dogs, and tended to be absent minded.
Paolo Caporali apparently treated Rudy just like a member of the family. He learned to live in the best society and became used to comfortable and beautiful things. He was sent by chauffeur driven car to a school for mathematics, but when he didn’t do well, he lied about it. Caporali hired a tutor to help him get through, but the tutor called to inform Caporali that Rudy was not coming to their meetings.
As academics was apparently not Rudy’s forte, Caporali got the boy, nearly 18 now, a job as a gardener, but Rudy wouldn’t go to work either. He always arrived late and lied about what he’d been doing. Iliana Caporali observed that he appeared not to know right from wrong.
When Rudy was 18, Caporali dismissed him from the home and refused to allow him back.
Rudy moved to Milan where his aunt, Georgette, had immigrated. She was married to a man named Vincent who apparently liked Rudy and developed a good relationship with him throughout the winter and spring of 2007. Rudy took a job in a café and was very proud of his uniform. He started dating an Italian girl. One night at a night club, he had his photograph taken with Giorgio Armani, the men’s clothing designer. He was very proud of this photo, too, and was seen to use it as the desktop photo on his computer.
In the spring of 2007, however, he lost his café job and drifted back to Perugia.
With the help of Mrs. Caporali, who still held affection for him, he managed to rent a student apartment on via Canarino off Corso Garibaldi. There is no indication of what he did for a living at this time. He started to inject himself into the student life of the town and he sometimes passed himself off to European students who did not speak English well, as an American, Kevin Wade.
Rudy played basketball at the Piazza Grimana basketball court right across the street from 7 via Della Pergola, where he was known to all of the other basketball players, but none knew his real name. Some called him, Body Roga, after the Serbian basketball star, Deja Bodiroga, but most called him The Baron, because they found it difficult to say the name Byron. Guede styled himself after NBA star, Byron Scott.
He developed a relationship with an American student, Victor Oleinikov, who happened to be from Seattle. Many Seattle students come to Perugia to complete their language requirements, because Seattle is said to be Perugia’s “sister city.” Although Oleinikov found Rudy to be eccentric and weird, the two formed a strong friendship and spent many evenings together in Perugia’s bars and clubs. Rudy told Oleinikov that his father was a computer programmer in Florence who gave him a weekly allowance. Oleinikov, himself, was living on money from his parents in Seattle. He says that Rudy never once asked him for any money.
Oleinikov remarked that Rudy was a particularly fine dancer and had no difficulty finding girls who wanted to dance with him. Oleinikov says that news reports stating that Rudy was creepy are completely inaccurate. One night when they went to the club Domus, however, the bouncer inexplicably refused to allow Rudy entrance. Rudy accused the management of racism, but as it turns out, there were many things about his new friend Victor Oleinikov did not learn at that time.
Rudy never wanted to go home and was always happy to sleep on the floor of the apartment Victor shared with roommates. This only became a problem when Rudy started displaying very strange sleeping disorders. His eyes were normally droopy and during these attacks one couldn’t tell if he was awake or asleep. Rudy would rise in the middle of the night and, using a dresser as a black board, teach a lesson as though he was a professor, moving seamlessly between Italian and English. The students found this particularly unsettling. When he awoke in the morning he had no memory of the event. He told his friends that at home he had to hide his keys from himself because he tended to get up in this state and wander the streets, only to awaken miles from his home.
He also had periods of crawling on the floor and barking like a dog.
After his arrest, these behaviors were classified as psychogenic dissociative state or Fugue State, often associated with multiple personality disorder and nearly always the result of childhood sexual and physical abuse.
Oleinikov also says that Rudy was a light weight drug user, becoming incapacitated on even small amounts of hash. He observed Rudy on many occasions falling asleep while sitting on the toilet listening to his iPod. He said Rudy expressed a deathly fear of drug dealers who transacted business on the church steps. He often cited fear of drug dealers as a reason to stay at the students’ apartment rather than walk home to his own. Eventually the sleep walking episodes became too frequent and intrusive and the students ejected him. Oleinikov returned to Seattle shortly after this event.
Although Rudy never asked Oleinikov to borrow money, he did try to borrow ten euro from another student, two days before Meredith Kercher’s murder.
Rudy also developed a friendship with the Italian men who lived downstairs from Amanda Knox and Meredith Kercher. None of them seem to have known his real name and after the murder they all tried to distance themselves from introducing him to the house. Rudy, himself, spoke about meeting Amanda Knox for the first time and fantasizing about her with the other men who lived in the house. On meeting Meredith Kercher, which he did at a small gathering in the downstairs apartment, he was equally attracted to her.
Throughout the fall of 2007, a number of events figure into stress factors for Rudy Guede.
On September 27, bartender, Christian Tremontano, was awakened in the middle of the night by sounds of someone in his apartment. On coming downstairs, Tremontano discovered a young black man whom he later learned was Rudy Guede, going through his possessions. Being confronted, Rudy first grabbed a chair to fend Tremontano off, as a lion tamer might, then pulled a pocket knife on the man and managed to get out the door. Tremontano reported the break in to police officer, Monica Napoleoni who asked him to come in to file an official complaint. When Tremontano arrived at the police station, the line was too long and he gave up the idea. He had not been injured and nothing was stolen.
One night Tremontano recognized Rudy at the Domus Disco and had him removed by the bouncers. He also kicked him out of the bar, Merlin, where Tremontano, himself, worked.
Around this same time up in Milan, a nursery school owner named Maria Del Prato came into her school on a Monday morning to allow plumbers to complete some work. She found the kitchen to be a total mess. Someone had prepared a vast quantity of food, pasta and frozen spinach, and left the debris all over the room, in the sink, all over the tables. Also the pallets where the children take their naps were disarrayed and obviously had been slept on. She was also missing 2000 euro, the tuition she’d accepted from parents the previous Friday.
On October 13, the law offices of Paolo Brocchi on via Del Roscetti in Perugia, was broken into from the back yard. The alarm had been disabled and then a window broken with a rock to allow thieves entry. The perpetrator turned up the heat so that the office was stifling. They removed the shards of broken glass from the window, carried them into another room, and arranged them neatly on a desk. They drank a Fanta soft drink from the refrigerator, 3 coats were strewn on the floor. Stolen from the office were a laptop computer, cell phones, USB sticks, and a printer.
On October 23, Maria Mandu Diaz, who lived next door to Rudy, was attending Vendemmia, the grape harvest festival, when police arrived to inform her that her home in Perugia had been badly damaged by fire and her cat had been killed in the blaze. Thieves entered the home through window and started the fire on the 3rd floor by throwing a scarf over a lamp. They cooked a meal and tossed food all around the kitchen. They left the stove on and the refrigerator open. A fireman commented to her: “Loro hanno gozzovigliato.”
The cat had died as a result of the thieves leaving the pantry door open and closing off his retreat.
Ms. Mandu-Diaz also had her jewel box looted. She was most distressed by the loss of her mother’s gold watch which was irreplaceable.
Ms. Mandu-Diaz knew Rudy casually because when walking her dog, Rudy was often outside his apartment, trying to get a cell signal. She noted he was friendly and petted her dog.
Back in Milan on October 27, Maria Del Prato walked into her office in her nursery school to find a young black man unhooking the cable to her computer in order to plug it into his laptop. This was Rudy Guede and Ms. Del Prato said he was very relaxed. He advised her not to worry. He hadn’t taken anything.
Ms. Del Prato immediately called the police to whom Rudy gave a story about being told he could purchase lodging there for fifty euro. The police went through his back pack and found, along with a large kitchen knife he’d taken from the nursery school kitchen, a laptop and cell phone and a woman’s gold watch. The laptop was identified as belonging to the law firm of Paolo Brocchi that was recently burglarized. Rudy told police he’d bought the laptop from a man at the Milan train station.
The Milan police wanted to hold Rudy but the prosecutor said he had more important cases and that Rudy was Perugia’s problem. They sent him back to Perugia.
On Monday morning, Rudy presented himself at the law offices of Paolo Brocchi to apologize for having their laptop. Once again he told the story about the man at the Milan train station.
On October 31st, Rudy dressed as a vampire and went dancing with the young women who lived downstairs from him. If anyone saw him with Meredith Kercher that night, as he maintains, they have yet to come forward. In 24 hours Meredith Kercher would be dead, Rudy’s DNA in her body and his bloody handprint on her pillow.