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2 Americans sentenced to life for murder of Rome police officer

Gabriel Natale-Hjorth (R) and Finnegan Lee Elder (L), both from the United States, received the harshest possible sentence for the murder of a Rome police officer. File Photo by Alessandra Tarantino/EPA-EFE
Gabriel Natale-Hjorth (R) and Finnegan Lee Elder (L), both from the United States, received the harshest possible sentence for the murder of a Rome police officer. File Photo by Alessandra Tarantino/EPA-EFE

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.

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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.

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"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."

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