Parents of son sentenced to life in prison for killing an Italian police officer speak out

The parents of one of two Americans who were convicted and sentenced to life in prison after an Italian police officer was fatally stabbed have spoken out for the first time since their son’s verdict.

Ethan and Leah Elder, the parents of Finnegan Elder, described their son’s mental state as “perilous” after he was sentenced to life in prison.

“We just want Finn to be able to survive this,” Leah Elder told ABC News’ Good Morning America on Monday. “He has a noted history of attempted suicide, and we’re really worried and really concerned. He was utterly devastated by the verdict, just devastated. It was completely unexpected for him.”

Mrs Elder testified in court in last December about her son’s mental fitness, which included details on his past suicide attempts while living in San Francisco.

“He struggles with anxiety and depression, and his current situation is really perilous,” she added.

Finnegan Elder, 21, and Gabriel Christina Natale-Hjorth, 20, were found guilty last week of murder, assault, killing a public official, and extortion for stealing a backpack from a drug pusher and demanding money or drugs in exchange.

Separately, Elder was found guilty of carrying a military-grade knife, which was a prohibited weapon in Italy.

The pair received Italy’s harshest sentence, life in prison, for their crimes.

In July 2019, Wilder, then 19, and Natale-Hjorth, then 18, of California attacked two members of Italy’s storied Carabinieri paramilitary police force on a street corner in Rome, Italy, in the early morning hours.

Police said the teenagers, who were former classmates from the San Francisco-area, tried to buy cocaine but were sold a fake substance. In response to being sold the fake substance, the teenagers allegedly robbed a drug dealer of a backpack and demanded he pay 100 euros and the promised cocaine for them to return it.

They scheduled to meet the drug dealer on a street corner but, unbeknownst to the teenagers, the person also called local authorities about the situation.

Elder and Natale-Hojorth encountered two plainclothes police officers at 3am on 26 July, 2019.

The two Carabinieri officers, Mario Cerciello Rega and Andrea Varriale, approached the teenagers without any service weapons or handcuffs. It was not known if they had their badges on them.

Mr Varriale said they identified themselves as police officers in Italian, but the teenagers thought the two men were drug dealers, according to testimony from Elder.

Mr Cerciello Rega, 35, entered into a physical altercation with Elder, who then stabbed the police officer 11 times with a knife he purchased while in Europe. Elder has not denied the incident but claimed he was acting in self defence.

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