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Family of California teen accused of killing Italian policeman says truth will come out

Finnegan Elder’s family
Family members of Finnegan Elder embrace as their family attorney Craig Peters, unseen, speaks to members of the media.
(Associated Press)

The family of one of the two California teenagers held in the slaying of an Italian police officer is looking “forward to the truth coming out and our son coming home,” an attorney for the family said Saturday.

“We feel the public has an incomplete account of the true version of these events,” Craig Peters said.

Peters read a short statement in front of the home of Finnegan Lee Elder’s parents in San Francisco in which he said the family also expressed their condolences to Carabinieri officer Mario Cerciello Rega. Peters, who spoke next to Elder’s parents, didn’t take questions after making the statement.

“We continue to hold his family in our thoughts and pray for them at this difficult time,” Peters said.

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Peters also said that Finnegan Elder “was OK. Tired, remorseful and scared. He has our full support, and we stand by his side.”

The statement came after Elder’s father, Ethan, returned from visiting his jailed 19-year-old son in Rome.

Italian prosecutors say Finnegan Elder confessed to knifing Cerciello Rega during a July 26 scuffle.

According to court documents, Elder said he thought a strange man was strangling him and he didn’t know Cerciello Rega was a plainclothes police officer.

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Cerciello Rega, 35, had returned from his honeymoon a few days earlier and was scheduled to be off work when he and a partner were assigned to respond to a small-scale extortion attempt involving a failed drug deal and a stolen backpack, Italian authorities have said.

He was stabbed 11 times with a 7-inch military-style attack knife that investigators reported finding in the drop ceiling of the Americans’ hotel room, police said.

Elder’s friend, 18-year-old Gabriel Christian Natale-Hjorth, also is in custody while the investigation continues. Prosecutors say he punched and kicked the officer’s partner, Andrea Varriale, while the stabbing was taking place.

A judge who upheld the teens’ detention a week ago wrote in her decision that Varriale said the two officers had identified themselves as police and showed their badges but were attacked right away. Judge Chiara Gallo also said that Elder did not have marks on his neck consistent with an attempted strangling.

No charges have been brought against either American.

Elder’s father said after a visit to Rome’s Regina Coeli prison on Friday that his son “is struggling but holding up.”


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