Italian court hands two U.S. tourists life imprisonment to kill police officers

Rome — Two American tourists were sentenced to life imprisonment by an Italian court on Wednesday for killing a police officer near a hotel in Rome in a country-shaking incident.

Finnegan Lee Elder, then 19 years old, admitted that he had stabbed Mario Celciero Lega early on July 26, 2019.

However, they say they acted in self-defense because they thought they were thugs to catch them after two ununiformed police officers failed to buy drugs. ..

The court dismissed their testimony and sentenced them to the strictest possible punishment in Italy. Under Italian criminal law, criminals serving life imprisonment can be eligible for parole 21 years later if they have a good record of their actions.

The defense lawyer has announced that he will appeal immediately.

Two Americans from California were also convicted of attempted extortion, assault, resistance to civil servants, and carrying attack-style knives for no good reason.

As soon as the judgment was issued, the pair was withdrawn immediately. The widow of Serciello Lega grabbed a photo of her dead husband, was in court, and sobbed after the verdict was announced.

Widow of the murdered Carabinieri gendarmerie
Rosa Maria Esilio, the widow of the murdered Carabinieri gendarmerie Mario Celciero Lega, was married to U.S. citizens Finnegan Lee Elder and Gabriel Natale Hyorus in Rome, Italy, on May 5, 2021. He told the media after being convicted of the killing. .. (Guglielmo Mangiapane / Reuters)

The elder and Natale-Hyors came to Rome on a holiday and tried to buy drugs from a local dealer at a tourist hotspot. They said they had been deceived by the court, but were able to steal the bag from the intermediary when he tried to escape.

Later, they agreed to meet the dealer again to get the money back in exchange for the bag, but two police officers appeared instead. The elder testified that they had attacked them and forced him and Natale Hyors to protect themselves.

A second police officer, Andrea Varriale, denied this, stating that they clearly identified themselves. He hugged the widow of his partner who was sentenced and killed.


According to police, Serciello Lega, 35, was unarmed at the time and was stabbed by an elder 11 times with an 18 cm (7 inch) blade brought from the United States.

The death of the newly-married Serciello Lega shook Italy, and there was initial distrust that two US teenagers could be the cause of such violence.

Police officer Mario Celciello Lega
Police officer Mario Celciello Lega (R), 35, and his wife on the day of the wedding in June 2019. (Screenshot via Reuters)

Italian media reported that the drug dealer was an informant who asked police to intervene to get his bag back. At a court appearance last September, the elder apologized for what he had done.

Natale-Hjorth initially told police that he was not involved in the killing and did not know that his friend had a knife. However, his fingerprint was found on the ceiling panel of the hotel room where the blade was hidden.

Under Italian law, anyone who indirectly participates in a murder can be charged with murder.

“This is a technically flawed decision, both practically and legally, which cannot be confirmed by the appeals court, but we were shocked,” said Francesco Petreli, a lawyer who defended Natale Hyors. Said.

The two Americans have the right to appeal twice before the decision is finalized.

By Crispian Balmer and Cristiano Corvino