Rome jury convicts 2 US youths in slaying of police officer

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Finnegan Lee Elder, right, shows a crucifix to co-defendant Gabriel Natale-Hjorth before a jury began deliberating their fate in their trial for the slaying of an Italian plainclothes police officer on a street near the hotel where they were staying while on vacation in Rome in summer 2019, in Rome, Wednesday, May 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

ROME – A jury in Rome on Wednesday convicted two American friends in the 2019 slaying of a police officer in a drug sting gone awry, sentencing them to life in prison.

The jury delivered more than 12 hours before delivering the verdicts against Finnegan Lee Elder, 21, and Gabriel Natale Hjorth, 20, handing them Italy’s stiffest sentence.

Elder and Natale-Hjorth were indicted on charges of homicide, attempted extortion, assault, resisting a public official and carrying an attack-style knife without just cause.

The defendants were led immediately out of the courtroom. As Elder was being walked out, his father, Ethan Elder, called out, “Finnegan, I love you.”

The slain officer’s widow, who held a photo of her dead husband while waiting for the verdict, sobbed and hugged his brother, Paolo.

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THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

ROME (AP) — A jury in Rome on Wednesday began deliberating the fates of two young American men who are charged with killing an Italian police officer near the hotel where they were staying while on summer vacation in 2019.