One of two American teenagers accused of murdering an Italian police officer claims the “facts” of his case have been “unfairly misrepresented” by the media, according to a statement from his family’s attorney.
Finnegan Lee Elder, 19, was arrested in Rome in July alongside 18-year-old Gabriel Natale Hjorth, on suspicion of murdering Carabinieri officer Mario Cerciello Rega. Rega was stabbed eight times as he attempted to recover a stolen backpack from the teens, police say.
Elder’s family sent a statement to CNN through their attorney Craig Peters, after visiting him in prison Friday. “Finn is trying to stay hopeful but has suffered from severe depression since the incident. While in prison he has seen the way the media has portrayed him and the circumstances of the case & it has been difficult to hear the facts unfairly misrepresented,” the statement read.
“The family hopes that the truth will come out soon, so that everyone involved can start the healing process,” it continued.
In a subsequent statement, the Elders’ attorneys said, “We have come to the end of the window in which the prosecution can gather reliable evidence (a month and half after the incident). It now appears that the prosecution has a case of what happened at the scene built on the statements of a declared liar, a drug pusher and a drunk.”
“On the other hand, the boys’ version of what happened that night has gained support from the objective incident and has become the only version that makes sense,” the statement concluded.
According to police, Elder and Hjorth, both from San Francisco, approached Sergio Brugiatelli and a friend in Rome’s Piazza Trilussa on July 25, around 11:30 p.m, looking for 80 euros worth of cocaine.
Brugiatelli agreed to go to meet a dealer with Hjorth, while Elder and the friend waited with Brugiatelli’s bike and backpack. After Hjorth exchanged money for a roll of foil paper, Brugiatelli spotted two people he recognized as police, and he and Hjorth ran in different directions.
When Brugiatelli returned to the square, Elder had left with his backpack which contained his phone, Brugiatelli said. After calling his phone, a foreign voice answered and demanded a gram of cocaine and 100 euros for the return of his backpack. He called the police, and they agreed on an undercover meeting with Hjorth and Elder to make the exchange.
At around 2:48 a.m. on July 26, the teens, Brugiatelli and plain clothes police officers Rega and Andrea Varriale met near the Meridien Hotel. When Rega and Varriale identified themselves as police, a brawl broke out, during which Rega was stabbed.
Police allege that both Elder and Hjorth confessed to taking part in the assault, with Elder confessing to killing Rega.
CNN’s Madeline Holcombe and Jennifer Hauser contributed to this report.