The fate of two American students accused of killing an Italian police officer will be decided by a court in Rome this week in a case that is being closely monitored in Italy.
21-year-old Finegan Lee Elder and 20-year-old Gabriel Christian Natale-Hort from California were on holiday in Rome when Mario Churchillo Rega was fatally stabbed in the street in the Italian capital in July 2019.
Calabreta called on the couple accused in prison since their arrest to be sentenced to life in prison. “Life imprisonment is not a trophy to be exposed, but a just punishment … No one wins or loses in the face of such tragic facts,” Calabreta said in refuting arguments in defense in late April.
The jurors will begin hearing the case on Wednesday, with a verdict expected this day or Thursday.
The parents of the elder and father of Natale-Hort, who is of Italian descent, are in Rome for the decision.
On July 26, 2019, Cerciello Rega was stabbed 11 times and his colleague Andrea Varriale was injured after police officers, both in civilian clothes and without service pistols, collided with Elder and Natale-Hjorth in the Prati district of Rome, while investigating a bag grab.
An elder who traveled to Italy with an 18 cm (7 inch) combat knife in his suitcase and Natale-Hort say they changed police officers for criminals to pick them up.
Earlier in the evening, students contacted an intermediary to buy cocaine in Trastevere, a popular nightlife area. The middleman took them to a drug dealer, who instead sold them aspirin for 80 euros. In retaliation, they took the broker’s bag containing his cell phone and fled before it was said they wanted a ransom and cocaine to return the bag.
The mediator called on his phone and arranged to meet with the couple in the Prati neighborhood. He had also contacted the police to report the theft and the two officers went to the scene.
The students fled the scene and were followed to a hotel the next day, where police found the knife used to kill Cerciello Rega.
An elder admitted to stabbing Serchielo Rega several times, but said he and Natale-Hort suddenly ran into men they believed were drug dealers.
In an emotional statement to a court in Rome last September, an elder apologized. “I want to apologize to everyone, to Cerciello Rega’s family and his friends. To the whole world, “he told a court in Rome. “If I could go back and change things, I would do it now, but I can’t.”
Roberto Capra, the elder’s lawyer, said: “He apologized because he wanted to, not for any other reason. But of course, the court could assess this and take this aspect into account when sentencing. “
In a more recent hearing, an elder said: “When these men approached, they immediately attacked us, as if they wanted to rob or hurt us, without saying a word and without showing any personal documents or other objects. They didn’t even say “police‘, which sounds like the English word police. ”
Calabreta rejected the defense’s argument that Elder’s constant fear of assault, the result of a history of psychiatric problems, led him to kill Serchielo Rega after mistaken him and Variale as criminals.
Varriale testified that the two officers approached the young men on the street in front and showed their badges, although Cerciello Rega was never found.
Natale-Hort, who was fighting Variale, is also facing “voluntary murder” charges.
Fabio Alonzi, Natale-Hort’s lawyer, tried to keep his client away from Elder. “My client is a stranger to everything related to the murder,” he told the court.
If jurors find the men guilty and the judge sentences them to life, the couple will likely have to stay in jail until the sentence is appealed. If given a lesser sentence, they can leave prison and be placed under house arrest during the appeal.