ROME (KPIX / AP) – Two Bay Area teens who were classmates at a Marin County High School spent a second night in a prison in Rome after being interrogated for hours about their alleged role in the murder of an Italian police officer had been.
The young people were on vacation in Rome. Both suspects completed Tamalpais High School in 2018, and neighbors and classmates expressed differing opinions about the couple. Some were shocked, others not at all.
Investigators claimed in written statements on Saturday that the couple had stood their role in the gruesome murders. Deputy Brigadier General Mario Cerciello Rega, a member of the Carabinieri's famous paramilitary corps, was stabbed eight times, allegedly by one of the youth. He was bleeding on a street near the upscale hotel for teenagers near the Roman Tiber.
Italian authorities identified them as 19-year-old Finnegan Elder of San Francisco and Gabriel Christian Natale-Hjorth of Mill Valley.
The police said they were apparently out of the country without family members in the Italian capital.
The 35-year-old victim was married in June and has just returned to work from his honeymoon.
In Arrest Warrant, Elder It is described that the officer was repeatedly stabbed.
According to the police, everything started with a failed drug deal.
Investigators said teenagers had bought what they thought was cocaine. When they found out that the white powder was the wrong cocaine, the two teenagers attacked the seller and took his backpack with them.
The seller later contacted the police.
Investigators said Cerciello Rega and another Carabinieri officer were both wearing civilian clothes when they confronted the Americans at 3am on Friday. As the officers tried to retrieve the backpack, the two teenagers attacked the officers.
Natale-Hjorth was described in the document as repeatedly beaten partner of Cerciello Rega.
Italian police officers carried weapons, but it was unclear why they did not carry weapons.
The Carabinieri said surveillance cameras and witnesses helped them identify and find Americans. While investigating their hotel room, the investigators found a long knife in the suspended ceiling of the room. Garments were also found that were worn during the attack, the police said.
Under Italian law, persons who participated in a murder but did not commit the murder themselves risked being charged with murder.
Both suspects are also being investigated for attempted extortion.
Finnegan Elder refused an interview outside her home in San Francisco on Saturday. Instead, they issued a written statement:
"We write as a family to express our sincere condolences to the grieving family and community that Brigadier Cerciello Rega loved. We are shocked and shocked by the reported events, but have very little independent information about these events. We could not communicate with our son. We ask you to respect our privacy in this difficult time. We think of all who have been affected by this tragedy. "
Neighbor Gloria Keeley told KPIX that Elder is a good kid.
"I know Finn since he was born and he's in shock, he's one of the nicest neighbors," Keeley said.
Most neighbors know him as Finn, and he plays college football at Sacred Heart High School, San Francisco, but later moved to high school to Mill Valley and graduated.
"My vision of Finn, I do not see it that way," said Keeley.
Two other neighbors were not too accused of the charge and arrest
They did not want to give their names, but they said Elder was a troublemaker, telling of several cases in which Elder had drunk and vomited outside their home.
The second suspect, Gabriel Natale-Hjorth , played lacrosse at Tamalpais High, and his classmate said he had a violent reputation on campus.
"I've always known he was a villain," said Tommy Flynn, a Tamalpais High student. "He told stories of activities you do not want your kids to have. He is known in the city as a criminal.
Natale-Hjorth's family declined to comment when KPIX went to Mill Valley with her family.
"The boldness of doing that in another country is frightening. I think it's just disgusting to kill a policeman when everyone is safe, "said Flynn.
The Italian police said the two youths had already confessed.
Since the murder, Cerciello Rega was loved for his charity Working with the homeless and sick was praised as a hero for trying to protect the streets of Rome.
Photos of the officer wearing his uniform at the wedding and showing off his wedding ring sitting next to his radiant bride dominated the covers of many Italian newspapers on Saturday.
Parents with their children left bouquets at the blood-stained spot.
Authorities swore that justice would happen.
"In the hope that the murderer of our poor Carabiniere I remind the good guys that in the US anyone who kills risks the death penalty," Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who is also responsible for the state police, tweeted another national Italian police corps. "I'm not saying that we can do that, but yes, to living in jail (obviously at work)." Gabriel Christian Natale Hjorth The American teenager Gabriel Christian Natale Hjorth in an Italian police car Rome, 27 July 2019. (AP Photo / Andrew Medichini)
As in all countries of the European Union, there is no death penalty in Italy.
Elder's lawyer, Francesco Codini, said his client had exercised his right not to do so Answering questions during a Saturday hearing.
Codini declined to say anything different from the "respect for the family" of the murdered officer. Asked what Elder's psychology is, he replied, "Worn out."
Natale-Hjorth's lawyer did not speak with reporters waiting outside the prison after the hearing.
The judge left without stating when she could decide. The American should be detained as long as the investigation continues.
This case could stimulate comparisons with another spectacular homicide investigation on a young American in Italy.
Amanda Knox was an American university student in Perugia when she was indicted in 2007 for stabbing her British roommate Meredith Kercher. She was convicted, but finally acquitted.
The Italian media focused on Knox and largely ignored the fate of the British. By contrast, a decade later, the victim of the murder is an Italian police officer at a time when Salvini's right-wing party is becoming increasingly popular.
"Hero of the Fatherland, Justice for Mario," it says in a note, signed by the "neighborhood citizens" and left near his place of death.
© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. Da Lin and the Associated Press of KPIX 5 have contributed to this report