updated 4/19/2008 3:17:37 PM ET 2008-04-19T19:17:37

A court-appointed expert said Saturday there was not enough evidence to conclude that a slain British student had been sexually assaulted or strangled, nor was it possible to narrow the window of time in which she was killed.

Giancarlo Umani Ronchi spoke to reporters before entering the Perugia courthouse for a hearing on evidence in the slaying of 21-year-old Meredith Kercher.

Kercher was found dead on Nov. 2 in a pool of blood in her bedroom of a rented house in Perugia, a medieval Umbrian university town with a large foreign student population. She had been stabbed in the neck.

Kercher's mother, brother and sister made no comment to reporters as they arrived for the closed-door hearing midmorning.

Three suspects, including Kercher's American roommate, 20-year-old Amanda Knox of Seattle, have been jailed for months in the case, although no formal charges have been filed against them.

Only one of the suspects, Italian student Raffaele Sollecito, 24, attended the hearing. Sollecito, who was Knox's boyfriend at the time of the slaying, made no comment as he arrived.

The third suspect in the case, Ivory Coast national Rudy Hermann Guede, 21, has told investigators he was in the woman's room the night she died but said that he did not kill her.

All three suspects deny wrongdoing.

Although prosecutors have raised the possibility that Kercher was sexually assaulted, Ronchi said that he and other court-appointed experts found no evidence to confirm that.

"When no traces of sperm are found, when there are no traces of physical violence," it is difficult to determine that there was sexual violence, Ronchi said.

An autopsy found that Kercher had bled heavily from a stab wound to the neck.

Some news reports have said that the victim was strangled.

"It's too much of a stretch to speak of strangulation," the Italian news agency Apcom quoted Ronchi as saying.

The experts also weren't able to determine the precise time that Kercher died, he said.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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