‘He is devastated’: Parents of teens accused in Italy cop murder case visit sons in jail

The fathers of the two Bay Area teens jailed on suspicion of the murder of an Italian police officer visited their sons in jail for the first time on Wednesday.

A crowd of international journalists gathered outside Regina Coeli prison in Rome to catch a glimpse of Ethan Elder and Fabrizio Natale, the fathers of Finnegan Lee Elder, 19, and Gabriel Christian Natale-Hjorth, 18. The friends, who graduated from Tamalpais High in 2018, were on vacation in Italy when officials say they assaulted and stabbed Carabinieri Deputy Brigadier Mario Cerciello Rega, 35.

Police say Elder stabbed Cerciello Rega 11 times while Natale-Hjorth assaulted the officer’s Carabinieri partner. The officers were responding to an alleged botched drug deal.

Fabrizio Natale issued a statement to the media after visiting his son.

Natale said his son was “devastated” by the death of Cerciello Rega and “can’t come to terms with what happened.”

I was right in the middle of the international media scrum as Ethan Elder left the Rome jail. He visited his son for the first time since the night an Italian officer was stabbed to death. San Francisco’s Finn Elder, the suspect.

Posted by Dan Noyes on Thursday, August 1, 2019

“We are very upset by the predicament he’s in, but we are all fully convinced of his innocence,” Natale said in the statement. He also stated his son didn’t know Elder was carrying a military-style knife with him at the time of the attack, an assertion Italian police said was “impossible.” Police say they later found the knife hidden in the teens’ hotel room.

The Italian media reports Natale brought his son two books, “The Old Man and the Sea” by Ernest Hemingway and an Italian-English dictionary; he was reportedly not allowed to keep the dictionary, as its hard corners were considered unsafe.

ALSOSan Francisco parents of Finnegan Elder speak publicly for first time

According to police, Cerciello Rega and his partner were responding to a report of a drug deal gone wrong on July 26. The Italian judge in charge of approving the teens’ detention said Elder and Natale-Hjorth paid a drug dealer for cocaine, but did not receive the drug. Police say the teens stole a backpack from the dealer’s intermediary and then demanded 100 euros and a gram of cocaine to get it back.

The intermediary called the police to report the alleged extortion, and Cerciello Rega was assigned to the planned meet-up with the Americans. Cerciello Rega’s partner says Elder and Natale-Hjorth “attacked right away,” even though the police showed their badges and identified themselves.

Prosecutor Nunzia D’Elia told the Associated Press that during interrogations, the Americans “exhibited apparent difficulty in grasping the gravity of the situation.”

“‘Is he really dead? Dead, dead?'” D’Elia said Natale-Hjorth responded when he learned the officer was deceased.

Katie Dowd is an SFGATE Senior Digital Editor. Contact: katie.dowd@sfgate.com | Twitter: @katiedowd

This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/finnegan-elder-italy-carabinieri-prison-14273253.php.

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