Rome Police Stabbing: SF college student gets Italian Supreme Court date in killing of officer

Finnegan Elder was on vacation in Rome during July 2019 when he stabbed an Italian police officer to death in an altercation.

Dan Noyes Image
Tuesday, October 18, 2022
Rome Police Stabbing: Finnegan Elder gets Italian Supreme Court date
Finnegan Elder, 22, of San Francisco receives an Italian Supreme Court date in the killing of police officer Mario Cerciello Rega.

ROME (KGO) -- The Italian Supreme Court will consider the murder conviction of 22-year-old Finnegan Elder of San Francisco in a hearing January 17, 2023.

Elder was on vacation in Rome during July 2019 when he stabbed an Italian police officer Mario Cerciello Rega to death in an altercation after three in the morning. From the start, Elder testified he thought the man who grabbed him was a thug, not the Carabinieri deputy brigadier.

RELATED: Appeal hearings begin for 2 Bay Area students sentenced for murder of Italian officer

The evidence shows that Elder's friend, Gabriel Natale Hjorth of Marin County, was trying to buy cocaine when police interrupted the transaction. As they ran away, Elder grabbed the backpack of a man involved in the failed drug deal. That man called police and set a meeting with Elder and Natale Hjorth, who were met by Cerciello Rega and his partner. Cerciello Rega, who outweighed Elder by 100 pounds, had him pinned to the ground on his back. Elder pulled a U.S. Marine style combat knife from his sweatshirt and stabbed the officer repeatedly.

In the initial trial, Elder and Natale Hjorth received life sentences, but those were reduced on appeal. Elder has now been in an Italian prison for three-and-a-half years, and on Monday, he released a statement through his lawyers:

"I know I made a grave error. Not a day passes that I don't think about what happened, but I hope that at least the truth of what really took place that evening can finally be revealed. It was written in the second sentence (of an appeals court decision) that no badges were shown. I didn't know they were police officers, and this influenced my reaction."

RELATED: California college students guilty in killing of Italian police officer Mario Cerciello Rega

Elder's lawyers, Renato Borzone and Roberto Capra, said:

"We expect the Supreme Court to be a decisive step in ascertaining the truth of the facts. The second instance ruling, completely at odds with the trial of first-instance, recognized that the carabinieri did not identify themselves by showing their badges and, as such, the two American boys couldn't have known they were facing two police officers. This changes everything. The appellate judge, unlike the first-instance judge, held that the carabinieri Varriale did not tell the truth and that the two officers didn't show their badges at all. However, unexplainably, he did not draw the appropriate conclusions."

RELATED: Rome Police Stabbing: Step-by-step account of what happened in death of Italian officer allegedly by Bay Area's Finnegan Elder and Gabe Natale

Elder currently has a 24-year prison sentence. His friend, Gabriel Natale Hjorth of Marin County, has a 22-year sentence as an accessory to the murder. His father tells us, both young men will appear before the Italian Supreme Court together.

The I-Team's Dan Noyes has covered the case extensively and you can watch his Emmy Award-winning documentary "32 Seconds: A Deadly Night in Rome" here.

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