(CNN) -- Sitting at her home in West Seattle, Washington, Amanda Knox's aunt Janet Huff was watching the live television news coverage that her niece had been convicted of murder.
"It was terrible, it was gut-wrenching just to hear them say it," Huff said of the verdict.
She had been up for more than 11 hours while the jury deliberated, anxiously awaiting word. She remained hopeful but deeply afraid. She couldn't eat.
When the verdict was announced at about midnight in Perugia, Italy, her worst fears came true. Knox and her Italian former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, were convicted of murdering Knox's roommate Meredith Kercher. Knox was sentenced to 26 years and Sollecito 25 years in prison.
Following the verdict, people flooded out of the Italian courtroom. When the prosecution emerged, a rush of applause followed.
"To see the people outside the courtroom applauding -- that just made me sick, that people can be that callous and cold," Huff said.
Soon after the verdict, Knox's parents, Curt Knox and Edda Mellas, emerged and swiftly moved through the crowd. Watch Janet Huff's interview with CNN's Campbell Brown
Huff said she spoke to Knox's parents shortly after the verdict.
"They are, of course, shattered. They are not doing great," Huff said. "But we have already started the process of appeals. That's all we can do."
For Huff, Knox is still the strong, kindhearted girl she has always known -- not the cold-blooded killer prosecutors portrayed during the trial.
Huff said Knox was worried about the trial's impact on the family.
"I think that's what gets her through, knowing that she's got to be strong," she said. "If she falls apart, then we are really going to lose it. Knox's parents: Our daughter is no killer
"I know she is terribly disappointed, heartbroken and scared to death, but she's more concerned about her family and how we are."
With Knox's conviction, Huff said the family was moving forward with plans for some relatives to move to Italy to be near Knox. The cost and physical toll of constantly traveling to Italy was weighing on the family, she said.
"We've looked at jobs and apartments just in case this happened," she said. "There's no way we are going to leave Amanda in Italy all alone."
Knox's case has attracted widespread media attention and prompted salacious articles focusing on her sex life. Her name and photo have appeared on the front pages of newspapers all over the world, and now, Huff fears, things may get worse.
"Now that there's a guilty verdict, she's always going to be remembered as 'The convicted killer Amanda Knox,' and I'm disgusted by that," Huff said.
Maria Cantwell, a U.S. senator from Knox's home state of Washington, issued a statement saying she was "saddened by the verdict." "I have serious questions about the Italian justice system and whether anti-Americanism tainted this trial," Cantwell said. "I will be conveying my concerns to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton."
Huff said she hopes the appeals process will show what her family has believed all along.
"She will be vindicated and she will be found innocent," she said.
Despite the pain the trial has brought Knox's family, Huff stressed it is nothing compared to what victim Meredith Kercher's family has gone through.
"They still don't have closure, they may think they are vindicated with the guilty verdict but we know it doesn't bring their daughter back," she said.