May 5 (UPI) — An Italian jury on Wednesday convicted two Americans in the 2019 murder of a police officer in Rome and sentenced both to life in prison.
Finnegan Elder, 21, of San Francisco, and Gabriel Natale-Hjorth, 20, of Marin County, Calif., each received the harshest possible sentence for the slaying of Deputy Brig. Cerciello Rega, 35.
The Washington Post reported the verdict is likely to be appealed.
Rega died from stab wounds in what has been described as a drug deal gone wrong. He was stabbed eight times on July 26, 2019, in Rome near a hotel where the two Americans were staying at the time.
Rega and his partner were trying to retrieve a backpack Finnegan Elder and Natale-Hjorth had taken after a cocaine deal gone wrong.
The backpack belonged to a man the two men had met earlier that evening and who had acted as a go-between with a drug dealer.
The young men were arrested shortly after Rega’s death.
Finnegan Elder testified that he did not know Rega was a police officer and that he and Natale-Hjorth acted in self-defense.
Ethan Elder, Finnegan Elder’s father, told KABC-TV in Los Angeles that he spoke to his son last week.
“Dad, I know I should do some time for what happened,” Ethan Elder said his son told him. “I stupidly brought a knife to Rome. But I didn’t attack and tackle anyone from behind them at 3 in the morning.”