The man arrested as the prime suspect in the murder of an American woman found strangled in her Italian apartment last weekend was identified by authorities Thursday as an illegal immigrant from Senegal.
Chief Prosecutor Giuseppe Creazzo told a news conference in Florence that DNA traces found on a condom, a cigarette butt and under Ashley Olsen’s fingernails matched that of Tidiane Cheik Diaw, 25, who arrived in Italy a few months ago.
Creazzo added that Olsen’s skull was fractured twice before she was strangled with a cord or a rope. The prosecutor said the fractures were inflicted so violently that they alone would have killed Olsen.
Investigators also said Diaw had taken Olsen’s cell phone, put his own SIM card in it and used it.
Creazzo said investigators did not have a motive for the murder, but said Diaw had offered “substantially admissive” testimony in response to the accusations during a preliminary interrogation that lasted until 4 a.m. Thursday.
“We have gathered serious indications of guilt against him,” Creazzo said before adding that a judge must confirm the arrest.
Diaw is accused of aggravated homicide, given the brutality of the death and that Olsen was in a compromised state, Creazzo said. Prosecutors didn’t say if Diaw had a lawyer or had been assigned a court-appointed lawyer.
Olsen, 35, was found nude on her bed in her rented apartment on Saturday after her boyfriend had the owner open the door, alarmed that the woman had failed to respond to phone calls. Olsen’s body had bruises and scratches on the neck.
Citing witness testimony and street cameras, Creazzo said Olsen and Diaw met for the first time at the Montecarla disco in Florence early Friday morning and went together to Olsen’s apartment in the Tuscan city’s historic center.
The prosecutor said the two had consensual sex and both had drunk alcohol and possibly taken drugs over the course of the night.
Diaw was previously known to authorities for being involved in the local drug scene. Creazzo said the suspect had come to Italy to join his brothers, who had been there for some time. Diaw told investigators he was working odd jobs handing out flyers for local nightspots.
Olsen, originally from Summer Haven, Florida, had been living in Florence for three years as an active member of the expatriate community and art scene. She had moved to Italy to join her father Walter Olsen, who teaches in the Renaissance art city.
“We are devastated that our precious Ashley has passed away resulting from a horrible and senseless crime,” Walter Olsen said in a statement earlier this week.
He asked that the family be left to grieve in peace and expressed “faith that the perpetrator will be found and sentenced.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.