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Pic of US Teen Accused of Killing Italian Cop Raises Eyebrows

Blindfolding suspects is illegal in Italy, offending officer apparently made a 'mistake' in doing so
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 29, 2019 7:37 AM CDT
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In this photo obtained from the Italian Carabinieri, suspect Gabriel Christian Natale Hjorth sits blindfolded in a police station in Rome on Friday.   (Italian Carabinieri via AP)
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(Newser) – On June 19, Italian military officer Mario Cerciello Rega was married in his hometown of Somma Vesuviana. Now, his widow will attend his funeral Monday, at the same church where they were wed, after he was allegedly killed by two American teens, per ABC News. Gabriel Christian Natale Hjorth, 18, and Finnegan Lee Elder, 19, both from San Francisco, are in police custody in Rome on charges of murder and attempted extortion, with Elder accused of carrying out the stabbing of the 35-year-old Carabinieri officer, per the New York Times. The killing took place after an alleged drug deal gone wrong, after which the suspects are said to have tried to extort a man involved in the deal. Rega, who had just returned from his honeymoon, went with his partner to confront the two suspects after the man allegedly being extorted calling the cops. Rega was stabbed eight times, police say.

Police say both Americans confessed to their roles in the slaying. Per the AP, Italian law says anyone who takes part in a murder can be charged. Court documents show the suspects were interrogated separately and each initially blamed the other for the stabbing, but Elder eventually noted the knife was his and IDed it as the murder weapon, NBC News reports. Meanwhile, Carabinieri officials say they've launched a probe into a leaked photo showing Natale Hjorth at a police station in handcuffs and a blindfold after his arrest, Reuters reports. An Italian police commander, who notes blindfolding suspects is illegal, tells the AP that Natale Hjorth had it on "for a very few minutes, four or five" and that the officer who blindfolded him made the "mistake" while trying to keep the teen from seeing documents about his case. The offending officer has reportedly been transferred to a different unit. (Read more murder stories.)

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