Slain Italian police officer put to rest as Bay Area men face possible murder charges

ROME -- It was a somber day in Italy as the country mourned the loss of a newlywed police officer who authorities say was killed by an 18-year-old and 19-year-old from the Bay Area.

In the same church where he was married just over a month ago, 35-year old Carabinieri officer Mario Cerciello Rega was laid to rest. Hailed as a national hero, with politicians attending the funeral. The site where he died is now covered with flowers.

The newlywed officer bled to death, stabbed 11 times police reports show, after what police say was a drug deal gone bad. Security footage shows suspects fleeing the scene.

RELATED: American students confess to fatally stabbing Italian policeman Mario Cerciello Rega: Investigators

Documents released on Monday and identified by local media says the murder weapon was a 7 inch long serrated knife similar to the one used by Marines.

Police say Americans Gabriel Christian Natale-Hjorth, 18, and Finnegan Lee Elder, 19, are responsible.

The two men are from the Bay Area, both recently graduated from Tamalpais High in Mill Valley in 2018.

RELATED: Former Mount Tam student held in Rome officer's death 'illegally blindfolded'

Gloria Kealey is one of Elder's neighbors, "I've never seen him violent in any way. I've known Fin since he was born. The nicest guy. One of the nicest neighbors I have."

In a recorded confession, police say Elder admitted stealing a backpack in an alleged drug deal gone wrong.

On Monday they were sitting in an Italian prison, as police investigate a photo showing one of the teens blindfolded and handcuffed before being questions. Police admit it was a mistake to cover his eyes. Blindfolding a suspect, police say, "is illegal" and "not allowed."


Investigators say they found "overwhelming evidence" in the teen's hotel room. Including the supposed murder weapon "cleverly concealed" behind one the ceiling tiles as well as bloody clothing.

In a statement released on Monday the Elder family said:

"The family is completely focused on working with the State Department and gathering the facts they need to proceed."

An attorney for Finnegan Elder says the teens are in good condition. But that Elder faces "a complicated challenge ahead."

Under Italian law, prosecutors have up to a year to decide whether to file charges. The teen's attorneys will ask for an early release. Not much chance of that, given the potential flight risk and the high-profile nature of the case. In Italy, anyone who participates in a slaying can face murder charges, regardless of who may have stabbed the officer.
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