A COUPLE of US students who stabbed an Italian policeman to death with a Rambo knife in a failed drug injection were jailed for life.
Finnegan Lee Elder, 21, and Gabriel Natale Hjorth, 20, face Italy’s toughest sentence of at least 21 years behind bars for killing Italian policeman Mario Cerciello Rega in 2019.
The 35-year-old agent had just returned from his honeymoon when he was stabbed to death in a fight with friends after a drug mess.
The elder had admitted stabbing Rega 11 times in the attack on 26 July 2019, but claimed he acted in self-defense, believing the policeman to be a criminal.
His friend Natale-Hjorth, then 18, was convicted of helping him hide the weapon after the two hid the seven-inch Rambo knife in a hidden panel in their hotel room.
Under Italian law, even accomplices can be accused of murder.
The elder and Natale-Hjorth were indicted on charges of murder, attempted extortion, assault, resisting a public officer, and carrying an attack-style knife without just cause.
Californian schoolmates were on vacation in Rome when they tried to buy cocaine in the Trastevere area, near the Vatican City.
Investigators said a man named Sergio Brugiatelli helped the couple find a dealer.
But the students would be sold crushed aspirin instead of drugs.
After stealing the intermediary’s backpack, demanding his money back and a gram of cocaine in exchange, Mr. Brugiatelli called the police.
Undercover agents Rega and his partner, Andrea Varriale, arrived on the scene before the brawl broke out – with US students claiming the cops never identified.
Speaking to court in March, the elder said he stabbed Rega because he feared he was being attacked by a “thug”, the BBC reported.
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“As soon as I felt his hands squeeze my neck, I instinctively grabbed my knife and hit it a couple of times in an attempt to get it off me,” he said.
Last month, prosecutor Maria Sabina Calabretta argued that the two should be sentenced to life imprisonment, which she called “a just sentence”.
Cerciello Rega’s widow, Rosa Maria Esilio, was sitting in the front row during the trial holding a photo of her husband, who was killed 43 days after the couple’s wedding.