A lawyer for the homeless man charged with murdering American student Beau Solomon said his client denies pushing the teen into a Rome river.
Solomon vanished less than 24 hours after arriving in Italy on June 30 for summer classes. His body was found in the Tiber River on Monday and police charged Massimo Galioto, 40, with his murder a day later.
Galioto told a judge that he believed Solomon ended up on the riverbank after chasing someone who robbed him, lawyer Michele Vinelli said Thursday. The suspect has said he was awakened by dogs barking and people screaming.
Vinelli said his client and three others sleeping on the banks of the river then got into an heated argument with the University of Wisconsin sophomore.
"It was an animated situation, as you can expect someone who was just robbed is not calm," the lawyer told NBC News.
At some point during the commotion Solomon fell into the water, according to Vinelli. He said surveillance footage shown to him by the judge does not make clear whether the American teen was pushed or fell into the river.
"We will have to rely on forensic evidence to establish if he was pushed, tripped, slipped or backtracked as he was afraid — we can’t establish that from the video," Vinelli said. "What seems to be clear from the video is that [Galioto] didn’t push him."
"Solomon tried to swim back a couple of times but he disappeared into the water quickly," he said, adding that this part of the Tiber is full of rapids and rocks.
Galioto's companion, Alessia Pennachioli, also claims Solomon "accidentally fell into the river" after a scuffle.