Prosecutor Maria Sabina Calabretta delivers her speech during a hearing of the trial of Gabriel Natale-Hjorth, and Finnegan Lee Elder, both from the United States, where they are accused of slaying the Carabinieri paramilitary police officer Mario Cerciello Rega, in Rome, Italy, Saturday. Photo by Alessandra Tarantino/EPA-EFE
March 6 (UPI) — An Italian prosecutor has asked for life sentences for two American students who have been charged with murdering a police officer in Rome in 2019.
Finnegan Lee Elder, 21, and Gabriel Natale-Hjorth, 20, have been accused in the stabbing death of Vice Brigadier Mario Cerciello Rega in what has been described as a drug deal gone wrong.
Prosecutor Maria Sabina Calabretta said Saturday that given the circumstances of the case, the two should receive the maximum sentence allowed under Italian law.
The lawyer representing Rosa Maria Rega, the officer’s widow, expressed approval of the prosecutor’s request.
The officer was stabbed eight times at 2 a.m. on July 26, 2019, in Rome, near a hotel where the men accused of killing him were staying at the time.
Rega and his partner were trying to retrieve a backpack 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.
Elder testified last week that he did not know Rega was a police officer and that he and Natale-Hjorth acted in self-defense.
The defense is scheduled to present its closing argument March 18.