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Murder of American Student Found in Tiber River Baffles Rome Police

The lifeless body of a 19-year-old American college student found last Friday in Rome’s Tiber River continues to baffle Italian police as to the motive and circumstances of what is presumed to be a homicide.

The student, Beau Solomon of John Cabot University, was discovered dead Friday morning with a deep wound to the head. Autopsy results, which were released Wednesday, revealed water in the young man’s lungs, indicating that he had drowned and ruling out the possibility that he had been killed before being thrown into the water.

The visiting sophomore from the University of Wisconsin-Madison was last seen about 1 a.m. on Friday morning at a pub. After his disappearance, the group of students he had been with tried to call him but couldn’t get through.

Police arrested a homeless man, 41-year-old Massimo Galioto, on suspicions that he had thrown the young man into the river and then gone back to sleep in his tent by the side of the river. Galioto is now being charged with aggravated murder.

Witnesses said that on the night of the murder the student was visibly intoxicated and was in a daze, and that he was arguing with someone when he was thrown into the Tiber. A toxicological examination is underway to ascertain the presence of alcohol or other substances in the young man’s body.

One hypothesis is that before being pushed into the Tiber by Galioto, Solomon had been robbed of his wallet by two people who had convinced him to follow them out to the Garibaldi Bridge over the Tiber. According to this scenario, Solomon would have subsequently gotten into an argument with the homeless man, who then threw him in the river.

Solomon’s credit card was allegedly used in Milan after the incident to the tune of “thousands of dollars,” and investigators doubt there was a connection between the perpetrators of the credit card theft and the homeless Roman arrested by the police for murder.

One witness has claimed that Solomon had been robbed by “Moroccans” and on giving them chase, he ran into Galioto with whom he broke into a shoving match, resulting in the young man falling into the river.

Beau Solomon is not the first American student to be killed while studying abroad at John Cabot University, which has been plagued with violent mishaps.

In 2012, three American students attending courses at John Cabot University spent Halloween drinking in bars and taking drugs, resulting in one of the students killing one of the others. Around dawn the attacker got up out of bed, armed himself with a knife, entered the room of the victim and stabbed him 25 times.

In 2013, a 21-year-old John Cabot student fell to his death after drunkenly pretending to be a tightrope walker on top of a 65-feet high wall above the same Tiber River. The student, Andrew Keith Carr, reportedly went on a pub crawl in the Trastevere district of Rome and later that night fell to his death.

Then, in 2015, Andrew Mogni was critically injured during his study abroad program at John Cabot, and discovered with severe head trauma in the same area of Rome’s Tiber River as Beau Solomon. He fell into a coma and died 80 days later.

On Wednesday morning, Pope Francis met with the distraught parents of the young man, to comfort them and promise his prayers.

Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter 

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