Published: Wed, July 31, 2019
Worldwide | By Lisa Hogan

Americans accused of Rome murder reacted with tears, disbelief

Americans accused of Rome murder reacted with tears, disbelief

An Italian judge says one of the two American teenagers jailed in Rome for the slaying of a police officer has stated he stabbed the plainclothes officer because he feared he was being strangled, according to an order obtained by The Associated Press.

US citizens Finnegan Lee Elder, 19, and Gabriel Christian Natale-Hjorth, 18, remain jailed in Rome on suspicion of attempted extortion and aggravated murder in connection with a botched drug deal and the fatal stabbing of Mario Cerciello Rega, a 35-year-old deputy brigadier in Italy's Carabinieri paramilitary police force.

Prestipino insisted that Natale and fellow murder suspect Finnegan Lee Elder, 19, "were interrogated by the magistrates in conformity with the law". Rega and his partner, Andrea Varriale, were assigned to respond to a possible extortion attempt by the teens following a failed drug deal.

Natale-Hjorth kept saying, "But is he really dead?"

Police released a photo Tuesday of the murder weapon, which boasts a 7-inch blade.

Even if he had not forgotten it, it would have not made a difference because the two Carabinieri were surprised by the Americans' sudden attack, Gargaro said.

In an order for the pair to be held in jail pending investigation, a judge said the Americans had told investigators they had not been aware that Cerciello Rega was a policeman.

Police say when the man, Sergio Brugiatelli, called his own cellphone, which was in the snatched bag, the teens told him they'd give the bag back in exchange for 100 euros ($112) and a gram of cocaine.

Varriale recounted later that they identified themselves as Carabinieri and showed their badges, but were immediately attacked, the judge wrote in her ruling upholding the detention.

Gargaro, the Carabinieri commander, told reporters Tuesday that Cerciello Rega's partner could not have used his weapon on the suspects as they fled because it's a serious crime and was trying to help the wounded officer. Both officers were in plainclothes when they confronted the suspects on a street near an upscale hotel in Rome where the teens were staying. The officers were following up on a report of a drug deal that allegedly involved the teens.

When the undercover officers went to arrest the pair, a fight broke out, and 35-year-old police officer Mario Cerciello Rega was stabbed to death.

Shortly after his arrested, Elder confessed to the stabbing but also claimed it was in self-defense.

Like this: