The family of one of the American teenagers accused of killing an undercover Italian police officer during a ruined drug deal says they are shocked and bewildered & # 39; after their son played that football and his & # 39; delinquent & # 39; friend in Rome were arrested.
Gabriel Christian Natale-Hjorth, 18, and Finnegan Lee Elder, 19, spent a second night in a prison in Rome Saturday after being questioned for hours about their alleged roles in the assassination of Deputy Brig. Gen. Mario Cerciello Rega.
The young men, arrested in a four-star hotel room on Friday, were high school classmates in Mill Valley, a rich suburb 10 miles north of San Francisco on their way to the towering sequoias in Muir Woods National Park.
The city with 14,000 inhabitants is a desirable destination for families who are attracted to the safe, green neighborhoods and renowned public schools and the two boys graduated from Tamalpais High School in 2018.
Elder played varsity football at San Francisco's Sacred Heart High School while Natale-Hjorth Lacrosse played at Tamalpais High.
The two would now go to Santa Barbara City College and Natale-Hjorth invited Elder to Italy, where he has family and visits every summer.
The 19-year-old Finnegan Elder confessed that he killed the 35-year-old paramilitary police officer Mario Cerciello Rega on Friday night, the police said. A second American citizen, Gabriel Christian Natale Hjorth, 18, right, was also present at the time of the fatal stabbing
Paramilitary police officer Mario Cerciello Rega, who had just returned from his honeymoon, suffered eight stab wounds and later died in hospital from his injuries
Neighbors say they are not shocked by their arrest. Two told KPIX5 how elder had been ill for their home after getting drunk several times.
And former classmate Tommy Flynn said that Natale-Hjorth is a & # 39; villain & # 39; used to be.
Graduate Matt Kearney told ABC7 from Natale Hjorth: & # 39; I always saw him as a little vague, but nothing bad. & # 39;
Another classmate, who did not want to be mentioned, said: & # 39; If Gabe uses drugs, he is crazy. He has a lot of anger. & # 39;
& # 39; He is known here as a drug dealer. I feel like he thinks he can get away with anything. He got away with so many problems in Marin. & # 39;
He said to KPIX5: & # 39; I have always known that he is a bad guy. He would come up with stories about activities that you would not want your children to participate in. He is a little known in the city as a delinquent character. & # 39;
But Elder Gloria Keeley said: & I have known Finn from birth and am in shock. He is one of the nicest neighbors. My vision of Finn, I don't see him doing that. & # 39;
& # 39; We are shocked and appalled about the reported events, but we have very little independent information about these events & # 39 ;, said the elder's family in a statement. & # 39; We have not had any communication with our son. & # 39;
The family expressed its condolences to the policeman's family and & # 39; all affected by this tragedy & # 39 ;.
In a house that was listed for Natale-Hjorth's mother, a young man who opened the door cried & # 39; when an Associated Press reporter asked her to speak.
Investigators claimed in written statements on Saturday that the couple had known their role in creepy killing.
The two now go to Santa Barbara City College and Natale-Hjorth, in the photo, invited an elder to Italy, where he has family and visits every summer
Elder played varsity football at San Francisco's Sacred Heart High School
Neighbors say they are not shocked by their arrest. Two told KPIX5 how elder had been sick for their home after getting drunk several times
Their hometown is a desirable destination for families who are attracted to the renowned public schools and the two boys graduated from the Tamalpais High School in 2018
Rega, a member of the legendary Carabinieri paramilitary corps, was stabbed eight times, reportedly by one of the teenagers, causing him to bleed in a street close to the luxury teenagers hotel near the Tiber River in Rome.
Lawyer Francesco Codini said his client Elder & # 39; worn & # 39; was after he exercised his right not to answer questions during a hearing.
Natale-Hjorth's lawyer did not speak to reporters who waited outside prison after the hearing.
Police said the teenagers were apparently on vacation in the Italian capital without relatives.
The detention order describes Elder as repeatedly stabbing the 35-year-old officer who had just returned a few days earlier after his honeymoon.
Researchers said that Cerciello Rega, along with another Carabinieri officer, were both civilians when they confronted the Americans around 3 o'clock in the aftermath of a failed drug deal.
Natale-Hjorth was described in the document as repeatedly beating the partner of Cerciello Rega.
According to Italian law, persons who participate in a murder but who have not killed themselves run the risk of being accused of murder.
Mario Cerciello Rega, 35, who was stabbed to death in Rome early Friday
Both suspects are also being investigated for attempted extortion.
Cerciello Rega, loved for his charity work with homeless people and the sick, was praised as a hero who tried to keep the streets of Rome safe.
Photos of the officer wearing his uniform for his wedding and showing off his wedding ring as he sat next to his shining bride dominated the front pages of many Italian newspapers on Saturday.
Parents with their children left bouquets of flowers on the spot with blood stains.
The authorities swore that justice would be done.
& # 39; Hoping that our poor Carabiniere's murderer never comes out of jail, I remind do-gooders that in the United States, who is risking the death penalty, & # 39; tweet Minister of the Interior Matteo Salvini, who is also responsible for the state police, another national Italian police. & # 39; I am not saying that we will comment on that, but yes on a life in prison (in labor, of course). & # 39;
Like all European Union countries, Italy does not have the death penalty.
Italian state radio reported Sunday that the judge ruled that the Americans remain in prison while the investigation continues.
Suspects who are considered to be a flight risk are often not released. The Italian police said the two teenagers were preparing to leave Italy later on Friday.
An Italian investigator said the couple had thrown the bag from a drug dealer in Rome after the man apparently gave them another substance instead of the cocaine they were looking for. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the probe continues.
In a statement, the Carabinieri argued that the Americans demanded cash and cocaine to return the knapsack. They said the bag, with a telephone in it, was taken from an Italian man. The Americans, the police said, & # 39; threatened not to return him without paying 100 euros and a gram of cocaine. & # 39;
The owner of the bag reported the theft, and the civilian officers were sent to the rendezvous site to reportedly transfer the bag for ransom, the statement said.
The Americans, & although the officers identified themselves as Carabinieri, did not hesitate to enter into battle, culminating in the fatal injury & # 39; of the policeman, the statement said.
The teenagers, arrested Friday in a four-star hotel room, were high school classmates in Mill Valley, a rich suburb 16 km north of San Francisco. Elder is pictured on the left, Natale-Hjorth on the right
A man drops flowers where Carabiniere Mario Cerciello Rega died after being stabbed eight times when he and a colleague tried to arrest the two men after a theft complaint
Italian police officers carry guns, but it was unclear why they were not used.
The Carabinieri said that surveillance cameras & witnesses helped them identify and find the Americans. While the police searched their hotel room, the investigators found a long knife hidden in the lowered ceiling of the room. The police also found that clothing was worn during the attack.
The Carabinieri statement said that during their interrogation and faced with & # 39; hard evidence & # 39 ;, & # 39;
This case can lead to comparisons with another spectacular death investigation involving a young American in Italy.
Amanda Knox was an American university student in Perugia when she was initially accused of the stabbing death of her British roommate Meredith Kercher in 2007. She was convicted but eventually acquitted.
Italian media focused on Knox and largely ignored the fate of the Brit. A decade later, however, the murder victim is an Italian police officer at a time when the right-wing party of Salvini is extremely popular.
& # 39; Hero of the homeland, justice for Mario & # 39 ;, read a note signed by the & # 39; neighborhood citizens & # 39; and left near his death.
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