Just hours after arriving in Rome, a University of Wisconsin student was found dead in the Tiber River. Beau Solomon, a 19-year-old sophomore, was fulfilling a lifelong dream of studying abroad, and arrived in the Italian capital Thursday to attend a five-week course at John Cabot University. He never showed up at orientation on Friday. His body was found in the river Monday.
Police are investigating the death as a homicide. Someone reportedly spent about $1,500 on Solomon's credit card in Milan, and his body was found in a seedy part of the Tiber where stolen wallets and purses are often discarded after being emptied of cash and other valuables. The investigation has gotten off to a slow start. Police first thought he made the charges in Milan when he was reported missing. Only under pressure from the American embassy were the pieces put together.
On Tuesday, police arrested a 41-year-old homeless man, Massimo Galioto. The Associated Press reported that he was "seriously suspected of aggravated homicide," but he was not yet charged. The theory — as originally reported by the Italian ANSA news agency — is that two people stole Solomon's phone and wallet. After that, he allegedly got into a fight with Galioto, who is accused of throwing Solomon into the river. A full autopsy is "probably" being performed Tuesday, CNN reported. The results would show how Solomon died, and whether he was already dead when he entered the river.
Solomon reportedly went out with friends just about 10 minutes from the university housing in the Trastevere neighborhood, a picturesque area on one side of the river which is popular with American students. They went to a bar, and Solomon was last seen at 1 a.m. His classmates couldn't find him, assumed he went home, and went back. When they returned and didn't find him, they went looking again. When he didn't show up for orientation, police were informed.
The University of Wisconsin Chancellor Rebecca Blank issued a statement:
All of us at UW-Madison are greatly saddened by this loss. Beau was a bright and caring young man who lived the Wisconsin Idea through his work at Badger Boys State and his desire to travel and experience other cultures. Our hearts go out to Beau’s family and friends at this difficult time.
Solomon's parents are already in Rome. They flew from their home in Spring Green, Wisconsin on Monday with emergency passports. They had received alerts from the bank Friday morning about charges on Solomon's credit card for about $2.23. This was followed by a large purchase of clothing.
Solomon was a personal finance major in the school of human ecology. He had previously attended Southwest Wisconsin Technical College and University of Wisconsin-Richland. One of his brothers told The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that he was an athlete and cancer survivor. He battled the disease from ages 10 to 12, and met Brett Favre through the Make a Wish Foundation in 2005. His brother Jake said he was the "toughest S.O.B. that we've ever met." Beau had dreams of becoming a lawyer.