American artist Ashley Olsen was found strangled to death in her Florence, Italy, apartment on Saturday. CBS News reports that 25-year-old Tidiane Cheik Diaw has been arrested in association with her murder. Diaw is an illegal immigrant from Senegal. Investigator Domenico Giacinto Profazio said during a press conference that they were able to identify the man based on surveillance video and an abundance of other evidence.
CNN reports that Ashley’s boyfriend, 42-year-old Federico Fiorentini, contacted her landlord when he was not able to reach her on Saturday. Mr. Fiorentini has stated that he and Ms. Olsen had argued about three days before her body was found. He was trying to contact her in order to discuss their argument. When they entered Ashley’s apartment the landlord and Fiorentini found her naked on her bed with bruises and scratches around her neck. Fiorentini proceeded to move her to the floor to attempt CPR.
Investigators report that Ms. Olsen was strangled with a cord or rope and that her skull had been fractured in two places. Officials believe she had been dead for some time as her dog had defecated in her apartment several times. The landlord has provided a verified alibi.
Originally from Summer Haven, Florida, Ashley Olsen had been living in Florence for about three years. Her father, Walter Olsen, is an architect and teaches Renaissance art at an art school in Florence.
Ashley posted an Instagram photo in October that shows her and her beagle Scout from the back as they walked to her car. It appears to have been taken from above street level and includes a caption that says “I have a stalker.” Police are investigating this photograph.
Friends of Olsen report being at a nightclub with her until about 3 a.m. Friday. Her phone, which was found with Diaw, was turned off about 9 a.m. According to BBC News, prosecutor Giuseppe Creazzo said that Mr. Diaw and Ashley met for the first time at the nightclub that night. Diaw allegedly told authorities that they had consensual sex and that they argued, but that he had not intended to kill her, stating that Ashley fell during their argument.
Officials were able to solve Ashley Olsen’s murder quickly because of an abundance of evidence including a used condom, samples taken from under Olsen’s fingernails, and a cigarette butt that was left in her bathroom.
Witnesses reported seeing the two enter her apartment together. They had reportedly been drinking and possibly taking drugs together. Giuseppe Creazzo stated at the press conference, “It’s possible that both parties may not have been lucid… We are waiting for the results of the toxicological tests [but] we have reason to believe that they took substances that did not leave them lucid, certainly alcohol, maybe something else.”
The nightclub at which Olsen was seen with the suspect has a history of drug dealing. ABC News reports that police knew the suspect because of his history of drug-related activity. He is charged with murder aggravated by cruelty.
A motive for Ms. Olsen’s murder has not yet been determined. Her father, Walter, described her as “a beautiful and creative young woman, with a happy, exuberant and generous soul… we are heartbroken she was taken from us.” A friend who identified herself simply as Amy said, “I can’t imagine a person who would hurt her, she is a gentle, a kind, a beautiful, friendly, lovely girl and it’s an awful shock. We’ve got a great community here of people, and everyone loved her.”
[Photo courtesy of Fabrizio Giovannozzi/Associated Press]