Hundreds of people turned out to honor an Italian police officer believed to have been stabbed to death by two American teenagers in Rome.
The body of Deputy Brigadier Mario Cerciello Rega, a member of the famed Italian Carabinieri paramilitary police force, was brought to a chapel in central Rome to lie in state on Sunday.
The slain officer’s new wife, Rosa Maria, wept and placed her hands on his coffin as it was carried inside.
On Monday, a funeral will be held at the same chapel where she married Cerciello Rega on June 19 in his hometown of Somma Vesuviana.
Forty-three days later, Rosa Maria will return to the church a widow.
Somma Vesuviana Mayor Salvatore Di Sarno has proclaimed Monday to be a ‘day of mourning’ for the city near Naples.
Cerciello Rega, 35, had just returned to duty after his honeymoon in Madagascar when he was stabbed eight times and left bleeding in the street near Rome’s Tiber River at around 3am Friday morning.
Photos of the officer, wearing his uniform for his wedding and showing off his wedding band as he sat next to his beaming bride, dominated the front pages of many Italian newspapers Saturday.
Hundreds of people turned out to honor Deputy Brigadier Mario Cerciello Rega outside a chapel in central Rome on Sunday. The Italian police officer is believed to have been stabbed to death by two American teenagers in Rome early Friday morning
The slain officer’s new wife, Rosa Maria, wept and placed her hands on his coffin as it was carried into the church on Sunday
A funeral will be held Monday at the same chapel where Rosa Maria married Cerciello Rega on June 19 in his hometown of Somma Vesuviana. Forty-three days later, the newlywed wife will return to the church a widow
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte is seen consoling Rosa Maria in the chapel where Cerciello Rega was laid in state
Mourners are seen embracing outside the chapel before they went in to pay their respects to the slain Carabinieri officer
Mourners lined the sidewalks outside the chapel two days after the horror murder near Rome’s Tiber River
Photos of Cerciello Rega wearing his uniform at his wedding and showing off his wedding band as he sat next to his beaming bride dominated the front pages of many Italian newspapers Saturday
Northern California high school classmates Finnegan Lee Elder, 19, (left) and Gabriel Christian Natale-Hjorth, 18, (right) allegedly confessed to stabbing Cerciello Rega after a bungled drug deal outside a hostel where they were staying in Rome
Flowers, keepsakes and condolence letters have accumulated at a makeshift memorial outside the Carabinieri headquarters. Station commander Sandro Ottaviani told reporters Cerciello Rega was a beloved member of the force who ‘always thought about his neighbors, both during the service shifts and when he didn’t wear the uniform’.
‘He used to make pilgrimages to Lourdes and Loreto to help the suffering people every week,’ Ottaviani said, referring to two major Catholic pilgrimage sites. ‘Without telling anyone, he volunteered. Not only does a brave Carabinieri die, but a great man.’
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte called his death a ‘deep wound for the State’ and Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini praised the officer as a ‘hero’.
Salvatore Di Sarno, the mayor of Cerciello Rega’s hometown Somma Vesuviana, (left) and Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi (right) are seen arriving at the church to pay their respects to the fallen officer
An Italian soldier holding a wreath of flowers is seen entering the church along with dozens of other mourners
Carabinieri Commander in Chief General Giovanni Nistri (left) and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte are seen together
Carabinieri commander Nistri (right) and Italian premier Conte (left) were saluted by officers as they entered the church
Flowers, keepsakes and condolence letters have accumulated at a makeshift memorial outside the Carabinieri headquarters
Two officers stood guard outside of the Carabinieri headquarters as the makeshift memorial grew over the weekend
A man drops flowers where Carabiniere Mario Cerciello Rega died after being stabbed eight times
Northern California high school classmates Gabriel Christian Natale-Hjorth, 18, and Finnegan Lee Elder, 19, have been accused of murdering Cerciello Rega after a bungled drug deal outside a hostel where they were staying in Rome.
Detectives say Elder and Natale-Hjorth were trying to buy drugs before the slaying, but were sold a fake substance.
They then allegedly robbed a man of his backpack and demanded that he pay them ‘100 euros and 1 gram of cocaine’ to get his property back. The man agreed but promptly contacted police about the extortion attempt, officials said.
The robbery victim is not believed to be the man who allegedly sold the teens fake drugs, and it remains unclear whether he was connected to the dealer.
Cerciello Rega and his partner were both in plainclothes when they responded to the complaint and confronted the suspects, identifying themselves as Carabinieri, officials said.
A struggle ensued and Elder allegedly stabbed Cerciello Rega eight times while Natale-Hjorth allegedly punched the partner repeatedly, according to a police report.
Cerciello Rega (pictured) had just returned to duty after his honeymoon in Madagascar when he was stabbed eight times and left bleeding in the street near Rome’s Tiber River at around 3am Friday morning
Italian police officers carry guns, but it was unclear why they weren’t used.
The Carabinieri said surveillance cameras and witnesses helped them identify and find the Americans, who were arrested Friday at a four-star hotel.
While searching their hotel room, police said, investigators found a long knife hidden inside the room’s dropped ceiling. Also found were clothes worn during the attack, police said.
The Carabinieri statement said the Americans during their interrogation and confronted with ‘hard evidence,’ had ‘confessed to their blame.’
Both suspects could face murder charges and are also being investigated for attempted extortion.
Lawyer Francesco Codini said his client Elder was ‘worn out’ after exercising his right not to respond to questions during a detention hearing.
Natale-Hjorth’s lawyer didn’t speak to reporters waiting outside the jail after the hearing.
Italian state radio reported Sunday the judge ruled that the Americans stay in jail while the investigation goes forward.
Suspects deemed a flight risk are often denied release. Italian police had said the two teens were preparing to leave Italy later on Friday.
Authorities vowed that justice would be done.
‘Hoping that the killer of our poor Carabiniere never gets out of prison, I remind do-gooders that in the United States, whoever kills risks the death penalty,’ tweeted Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who is also in charge of state police, another national Italian police corps. ‘I’m not saying we’ll get to that, but yes to a life in prison (in labor, obviously).’
On Sunday a photo emerged of Natale-Hjorth handcuffed with a scarf covering his eyes inside a police station.
Provincial Cmdr Francesco Gargaro said the suspect was blindfolded ‘for a very few minutes, four or five’ on Friday just before he was questioned about the fatal stabbing.
Italian police say they have now launched an investigation into the incident with a spokesman confirming: ‘We disassociate ourselves with this kind of behavior and we are investigating who was responsible.’
Blindfolding of a suspect ‘is illegal. It’s not allowed,’ Gargaro said. The officer who put the blindfold on committed a ‘mistake’ but did so to prevent Natale-Hjorth from seeing documents related to the investigation, the commander said.
The 18-year-old was interrogated by police and prosecutors without a lawyer there since he hadn’t been formally detained as a suspect and Italian law doesn’t allow an attorney’s presence at that stage, the commander said.
The officer was transferred to a different unit, Gargaro said. The Carabinieri were also investigating who took the photo and how it was leaked. Lawyers for the two Americans were not immediately available for comment.
The two American suspects graduated from Tamalpais High School in 2018 and were reportedly enrolled at Santa Barbara City College. Natale-Hjorth (left) invited Elder (right) to Italy, where he has family and visits every summer
A photo emerged on Sunday of Natale-Hjorth handcuffed with a scarf covering his eyes inside a police station
Cerebiello Rega’s murder has made international headlines and sent shock waves all the way to the suspects’ hometown of Mill Valley, a wealthy suburb 10 miles north of San Francisco en route to the towering redwood trees in Muir Woods National Par.
The town of 14,000 is a desirable destination for families who are drawn to its safe, leafy neighborhoods and reputable public schools.
The two boys graduated from Tamalpais High School in 2018 and were reportedly enrolled at Santa Barbara City College.
Natale-Hjorth invited Elder to Italy, where he has family and visits every summer.
Elder’s family has said they are ‘shocked and dismayed’ at the news of his arrest, while many of the teen’s neighbors say they are not shocked. Two told KPIX5 how Elder had been sick in front of their home after getting drunk on several occasions.
Graduate Matt Kearney told ABC7 of Natale-Hjorth: ‘I always saw him as a bit sketchy, but nothing this bad.’
Another classmate, who did not want to be named, said: ‘When Gabe is on drugs, he’s insane. He has a lot of anger.
‘He’s known around here as a drug dealer. I feel like he thinks he can get away with everything. He’s gotten away with so much trouble in Marin.’
Former classmate Tommy Flynn said of Natale-Hjorth: ‘I’ve kind of always known that he’s a bad guy. 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.’
But Elder’s neighbor Gloria Keeley said: ‘I’ve known Finn since he was born and I’m in shock. He’s one of the nicest neighbors. My vision of Finn, I don’t see him doing that.’
‘We are shocked and dismayed at the events that have been reported, but we have very little independent information about these events,’ Elder’s family said in a statement. ‘We have not been able to have any communication with our son.’
The family expressed condolences to the policeman’s family and ‘all of those who have been impacted by this tragedy.’
At a house listed in Natale-Hjorth’s name, a young man who answered the door yelled ‘No!’ when an Associated Press reporter asked to speak to her.