In what local news sources are calling a murder mystery, a 35-year-old Florida woman named Ashley Ann Olsen was found naked in her rented apartment in Florence Saturday, after having been strangled.
The victim was an artist who had moved to Florence in 2012 to start her life over after her marriage fell apart. She chose Florence to be close to her father, an architect who works for the Florence Art School Bianca Cappello.
Questioned by police on Sunday, friends of Ashley’s expressed concerns that the murder investigation might evolve into a legal and media saga like the one involving Amanda Knox, who was tried and then acquitted for the murder of Meredith Kercher.
Although for the moment the police say they have no suspects, Olsen reportedly fought with her boyfriend three days prior to her death and the couple hadn’t spoken since then. The boyfriend, a 40-year-old Florentine painter named Federico Fiorentini, is the one who found Ashley and alerted police to her death.
Fiorentini claims he was worried because he could not contact his girlfriend, and so went to her apartment Saturday afternoon and was let in by the landlord. The young woman was lying in the bedroom, naked. According to the first autopsy, Olsen may have died several hours before the discovery of the body, and her body bears no signs of sexual assault.
The woman’s neck has a number of scratches and bruises and investigators are awaiting the full results of the autopsy to verify the cause of death and any special circumstance that could aid in identifying the killer.
Ashley’s father was brought in to officially identify the body after the murder.
The boyfriend told police that he had not spoken to Ashley for three days, ever since their fight, but that later he had tried to contact her but she did not respond to phone calls and messages.
Police investigators seized the victim’s computer in an effort to understand whom she may have been in contact with in the hours leading up to her death. They are also questioning all those who knew Ashley, including her boyfriend, friends, and neighbors, but as yet have not been able to come up with a plausible hypothesis for the murder. People describe the woman as a private person, but friendly and likable, and say they would often see her out walking her pet beagle, Scout.
One friend, identified only as Amy, said she was shocked by the news. “I cannot imagine someone wanting to hurt her. She was a kind, gentle, friendly, lovable,” she said.
Ashley and her boyfriend had been involved for at least two years, he has been described as a quiet person, and a successful artist, with works exhibited in numerous galleries.
Friends of Ashley’s continue to express their hope that the murder investigation is less torturous than the high-profile case of Meredith Kercher, a British exchange student who was murdered in Umbria in 2007, suffering multiple stab wounds in the attack.
Kercher’s roommate, the American Amanda Knox, was originally convicted of murder along with her Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito. After a lengthy legal process with extensive media coverage, the pair acquitted but then convicted again, before Italy’s highest court finally threw out the guilty verdicts in March 2015.
“I hope for her sake that this investigation will be clearer,” said Georgette Jupe, a friend of Ashley’s and author of the blog “Girl in Florence.”
A photo posted by Ashley Olsen (@ashleyannolsen) on
A State Department spokesperson said the U.S. consulate in Florence was assisting in the investigation.
“We can confirm the death of U.S. citizen Ashley Olsen in Florence,” the spokesperson said. “We extend our deepest condolences to her loved ones.”
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome