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Two U.S. tourists arrested in killing of Italian police officer

By
Sommer Brokaw
Brigadier Mario Cerciello Rega died Friday in Rome from a fatal stabbing in a hotel room after investigating a theft. Two U.S. tourists who confessed to the crime were arrested Saturday, Italian police said. Photo courtesy Caribinieri
Brigadier Mario Cerciello Rega died Friday in Rome from a fatal stabbing in a hotel room after investigating a theft. Two U.S. tourists who confessed to the crime were arrested Saturday, Italian police said. Photo courtesy Caribinieri

July 27 (UPI) -- Italian police said they arrested two U.S. teens Saturday after they confessed to involvement in the stabbing death of a police officer investigating a theft.

Officials identified the tourists as Finnegan Lee Elder, 19, and Gabriel Christian Natale Hjorth, 18, both of San Francisco.

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The teens face charges of murder and attempted extortion in the fatal stabbing of Deputy Brig. Mario Cerciello Rega, 35, of Italy's military police on Friday morning.

They were found in a hotel room Friday in Rome with a knife of "considerable size," the Carabinieri police service said. After being interrogated, they admitted involvement in Rega's death.

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Rega was looking for suspects accused of stealing a backpack and threatening an Italian citizen.

The accuser said the suspects demanded $112 ransom and a gram of cocaine to return the backpack. He called the police after saying he had a arranged a meeting with thieves to get his bag back. At the meeting, a fight broke out, and one of the two U.S. teens, Elder, stabbed Rega eight times, police said.

Elder's lawyer, Francesco Codini, told The New York Times that both teenagers had taken the right to remain silent during a court hearing Saturday afternoon. As for his client, he said he was not doing well and does not speak Italian. Codini declined to address his client's purported confession.

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The teens had been preparing to leave the country, police said.

The statement said officers found the knife behind a panel in the hotel room ceiling with clothes the men apparently wore during the attack.

Italian media initially said the suspects were North African, but witnesses and surveillance video cameras led police to apprehend the two U.S. teens.

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Rega had been married for 43 days and had returned from his honeymoon this week, BBC News reported.

His funeral will be held Monday in the same church which he was married.

In a Facebook post, the Caribineiri paid tribute to Rega's "unconditional and courageous dedication," and expressed "heartfelt sympathy," for his loved ones, adding his loss would be felt by his 110,000 fellow Carabinieri officers.

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