American visitors sentenced to life in prison for the assassination of an Italian police officer.
Two Americans were convicted on Wednesday of the 2019 murder of an Italian police officer — and one was sentenced to life in prison.
In the stabbing death of Vice Brigadier Mario Cerciello Rega, a jury in Rome found Finnegan Lee Elder, 21, and Gabriel Natale-Hjorth, 20, guilty of murder, attempted extortion, and other offenses.
Elder stabbed Rega 11 times after a botched drug sting, the jury found, and Natale-Hjorth assisted in concealing the murder knife. An accomplice may also be charged with murder in Italy.
The defendants said they were unaware that the Carabinieri paramilitary officer was a cop and acted in self-defense.
The widow of the slain officer sobbed as the verdict was read. Elder's father screamed, "I adore you, Finnegan!"
Rega, 35, and a girlfriend were summoned to investigate an extortion attempt after the young Americans reportedly stole a cellphone from a suspected street cocaine dealer — who took their money without supplying drugs. The court heard that the then-teenagers used the phone to arrange a meeting to recover their money.
According to the California visitors, they believed Rega and his companion, Andrea Varriale, were thugs attacking them on a dark street when the deadly battle ensued.
Elder testified that he believed the obese victim might strangle him before repeatedly stabbing him.
The courtroom, which was largely a battle of Varriale's word against the suspects', made front-page news in Italy, which was mourning the death of an officer.