News, Culture & Society

American teens accused of murdering Italian officer live in California’s ‘millionaire’s village’

As American teens Gabriel Natale-Hjorth and Finnegan Elder languish in an Italian jail awaiting their fate for the murder of Italian police officer Mario Cerciello Rega, a fuller picture of the accused killers’ privileged backgrounds is beginning to emerge.

Natale-Hjorth hails from the leafy affluent enclave of Mill Valley – a small town located just a short drive from San Francisco, over the Golden Gate Bridge often referred to as ‘millionaire’s village’, DailyMail.com can reveal. 

The town is packed with art galleries, trendy fashion boutiques and open-air coffee shops and is popular with wealthy Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and downtown financial brokers. 

The 18-year old’s luxurious home life is in stark contrast with the jail cell he’s currently waiting in, as his high-society father visited him today and says his son is absolutely ‘distraught’.  

Finnegan Lee Elder, 19

Gabriel Natale-Hjorth, 18, (left) and Finnegan Lee Elder, 19, (right) are accused of stabbing Deputy Brigadier Mario Cerciello Rega to death on Friday in Rome. Natale-Hjorthand is from the affluent area of Mill Valley, California, known as ‘millionaire’s village’ 

This is the the family's main home - a posh $1.65 million three bedroom house with stunning views of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area

This is the the family’s main home – a posh $1.65 million three bedroom house with stunning views of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area

The pair is currently being held in solitary confinement at the Regina Coeli holding jail (above) in central Rome while detectives investigate the murder

The pair is currently being held in solitary confinement at the Regina Coeli holding jail (above) in central Rome while detectives investigate the murder

Natale-Hjorth’s parents also own this two-bed, two bath property is less than 100 yards from the white-sandy beach and Pacific Ocean 

Gabriel's mother Heidi Hjorth, 57,

Gabriel's father Fabrizio Natale, 54

Gabriel’s mother Heidi Hjorth, 57, (left) is a high-end realtor with upmarket real estate brokerage Golden Gate Sotheby’s International Realty while his father Fabrizio Natale, 54, is also among the elite an Executive director at a venture capital and private equity firm 

The teens parents fit right in among Mill Valley’s high-society. 

His mother Heidi Hjorth, 57, is a high-end realtor with upmarket real estate brokerage Golden Gate Sotheby’s International Realty, selling multi-million dollar homes to the city’s wealthiest.

According to a profile on Sotheby’s, blonde Hjorth is of Danish heritage and is an avid fan of ‘the outdoors, oceans, the wine country, bicycling, walking, animals and kids, and gives the highest regard to homes filled with family and friends.’

Lawyers are expected to use this damning picture of Natale-Hjorth blind-folded and chained during a police interrogation to throw doubt on the credibility of the boys' confession

Lawyers are expected to use this damning picture of Natale-Hjorth blind-folded and chained during a police interrogation to throw doubt on the credibility of the boys’ confession 

The accused teen’s Italian father Fabrizio Natale, 54, is also among the elite. He was able to visit in son in prison Wednesday morning, lawyer Francesco Petrelli revealed. 

Mr. Natale, 54, said in a statement: ‘Gabriel is distraught with what happened and cannot come to terms with it.

‘We are deeply upset by his predicament while at the same time convinced of his innocence.’ 

Mr. Natale an Executive Director at a venture capital and private equity firm called Capital Dynamics and a former Principal Investment Officer for the European Investment Fund.

He’s also a member of the San Francisco Yacht Club where the rich and famous of northern California converge.

Mr. Natale, an accomplished sailor, even competed in the 2009 Rolex Big Boat Series as headsail trimmer on board the Tupelo Honey yacht – which won the IRC-D division trophy that year.

The wealthy, well-dressed married couple also own a multi-million dollar property portfolio in the area.

The main family home is a posh $1.65 million three bedroom house with stunning views of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

According to some reports the couple may have recently separated.

This might explain why the luxury property, which they bought in 2004, is currently up for sale on Hjorth’s own real estate page.

She’s trying to sell the home through Sotheby’s and the 2440 sq ft ‘Modern Barn’ boasts high end finishes throughout, wide plank hardwood flooring, newly re-modeled kitchen and bathrooms, decks, siding, and beautiful landscaping.

Hjorth and Natale also own a stunning $2million ‘architect designed’ beach house in Stinson Beach which is 13 miles away along the coast. 

The wealthy Natale-Hjorth`family also own this apartment Sausalito, California, which they rent out

The wealthy Natale-Hjorth`family also own this apartment Sausalito, California, which they rent out

This is an interior of one of three homes that the Natale-Hjorth family owns. This one is worth about $2million

This is an interior of one of three homes that the Natale-Hjorth family owns. This one is worth about $2million 

The interior of the Natale-Hjorth beach home that is rented out to tourists year round for up to $600 a night

The interior of the Natale-Hjorth beach home that is rented out to tourists year round for up to $600 a night

Natale-Hjorth's father is a member of the San Francisco Yacht Club where the rich and famous of northern California converge, and an accomplished sailor (pictured at the 5th Rolex Big Boat Series in 2009)

Natale-Hjorth’s father is a member of the San Francisco Yacht Club where the rich and famous of northern California converge, and an accomplished sailor (pictured at the 5th Rolex Big Boat Series in 2009) 

This social media photo shows Natale-Hjorth flaunting his wealth outside the Gucci Shop in Rome just days before being arrested for the stabbing death of an Italian officer

This social media photo shows Natale-Hjorth flaunting his wealth outside the Gucci Shop in Rome just days before being arrested for the stabbing death of an Italian officer 

The two-bed, two bath property is less than 100 yards from the white-sandy beach and Pacific Ocean and is rented out to tourists year round for up to $600 a night.

The house is listed on several vacation rental sites and ‘Heidi’ is the listed agent.

The couple bought the land in 2015 and had an architect draw up plans to build a modern, designer home on the plot, but they faced fierce local opposition.

Two neighbors tried to block the project and prevent them from obtaining a coastal development permit from Marin County.

But according to records the permit was ultimately granted providing certain conditions were met and the luxury property was built.

The pair also own a two bed $750,000 apartment in nearby Sausalito – a scenic waterfront town – which is where Hjorth’s father once lived, but is currently being rented by a family.

Just days before the killing, Natale-Hjorth posted a photo online posing with two Gucci bags packed with designer gear he’d bought from the brand’s flagship store. 

No one in this beautiful community can believe Natale-Hjorth – a blond, handsome, all-American athlete and accomplished young man – could have been involved in such a terrible crime in Italy.

Both teens attended Tamalpais High school in , Mill Valley, California, known as 'millionaire's village'

Both teens attended Tamalpais High school in , Mill Valley, California, known as ‘millionaire’s village’ 

This is Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory School San Francisco where Finnegan Lee Elder went and had to leave after punching a fellow student giving him brain damage in 2016

This is Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory School San Francisco where Finnegan Lee Elder went and had to leave after punching a fellow student giving him brain damage in 2016

The teen played lacrosse in high school and he also sailed yachts with his father and boxed.

The teen looked every bit a successful student dressed in a black tuxedo for his yearbook photo when he graduated from Tamalpais High School last year – a school which interestingly boasts legendary rapper Tupac Shakur as a former student who attended in 1988 after his family moved to Marin County from Baltimore.

By all accounts Natale-Hjorth was a good student and had collaborated with Tam News, the Tamalpais High School newspaper.

But some classmates had a differing view, with one, Tommy Flynn, telling local station KPIX5: ‘I’ve kind of always known that he’s a bad guy,’ said. ‘He would come up in stories of just like activities that you wouldn’t want your kids getting into. He’s kind of been known around town as a delinquent character.

The teen enjoyed a privileged upbringing in Mill Valley, however, enjoying days at the beach and bike rides up Mount Tamalpais with his younger brother Sebastian.

The brothers would spend at least three weeks every summer in Italy with their father visiting their grandfather in Fregene, a coastal hamlet just outside Rome, where Natale-Hjorth became known to locals as ‘Gabe’.

Ethan Elder, the father of Finnegan Elder, arrived in Rome Wednesday morning and demanded to see his son upon arrival

His mother Leah Elder told DailyMail.com this is a 'difficult time'

Ethan Elder, the father of Finnegan Elder, arrived in Rome Wednesday morning and demanded to see his son upon arrival. His mother Leah Elder told DailyMail.com this is a ‘difficult time’ 

This is the home of Elder and his family in the Sunset District of San Francisco

Finnegan Lee Elder, 19

Investigators determined that Elder (above) was the one responsible after he recognized the murder weapon as his own

Finnegan Elder, 19, (left and right) told police he stabbed Italian police officer Rega  because he thought the officer was going to strangle him on Friday while he interrupted a drug deal gone wrong 

There was no answer at the family home in Mill Valley Tuesday, but two dogs could be heard barking. 

Around 48 hours after the incident happened Friday, photos of Natale-Hjorth blindfolded while in police custody spread online, which must have shocked his family.

The pair is currently being held in solitary confinement at the Regina Coeli holding jail in central Rome while detectives investigate the murder.

Natale-Hjorth’s former lawyer Emiliano Sisinni told DailyMail.com: ‘Gabriel is traumatized, he really is in distress. Not just because he was blind-folded and hand-cuffed in the police station but because of the whole situation of becoming involved in a murder investigation.

‘He is just a young man who has just turned 18.’

DailyMail.com also spoke to Leah Elder, the mother of co-accused Finnegan Elder, outside the family’s $1.3million home in the Sunset District of San Francisco, just miles away from Mill Valley.

At the gate hung a handwritten sign: ‘Please respect our privacy. Please do not disturb.’

But Mrs. Elder came out to speak briefly to our reporter.

The 51-year-old transport consultant said it had been a ‘difficult’ time but couldn’t say much, referring us to her brother-in-law Sean Elder, a former Newsweek journalist.

Describing his nephew, Mr. Elder said Finnegan – who used to play football in a Catholic school team, Sacred Heart Prep, had ‘struggled’ and had issues during his childhood, ‘but is not a bad kid’.

Elder’s father Tim Elder is a 61-year-old Director at Pacific Lift & Equipment in San Francisco and arrived in Rome Wednesday morning but was unable to see his son. 

Photos of Cerciello Rega wearing his uniform at his wedding and showing off his wedding band as he sat next to his beaming bride not long before being murdered

Photos of Cerciello Rega wearing his uniform at his wedding and showing off his wedding band as he sat next to his beaming bride not long before being murdered 

Hundreds of people turned out to honor Cerciello Rega outside a chapel in Rome on Sunday

Flowers and tributes left for Deputy Brigadier Mario Cerciello on the street he was killed in Rome

Flowers and tributes left for Deputy Brigadier Mario Cerciello on the street he was killed in Rome

In a statement given to DailyMail.com Tuesday the Elder family said: ‘The Elder family offers its sincere condolences to the family of Officer Rega and all who have been affected by his death.

‘Our family thanks Francesco Codini and Emanuele Merolle for their work representing Finn. Finn has nominated new lawyers today and they are Renato Borzone and Roberto Capra.

‘Family members will be traveling to Rome shortly. We are grateful our son is being well treated.’

The Italian judge in the case, Judge Chiara Gallo, has been less sympathetic about Elder, however.

He revealed Elder had told authorities he stabbed Rega eight times in self-defense because he feared he was being strangled, but noted the teen did not have any marks on his neck.

Judge Gallo said in a ruling Monday that there were ‘grave’ indications that the teens carried out the slaying of Officer Rega after he and a fellow plainclothes officer confronted the Americans as part of an investigation into a cocaine deal the two were allegedly involved in.

He died shortly afterward at a hospital.

 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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