American Fugitive Faked His Own Death to Evade Rape Charges

Nicholas Rossi spent over a year attempting to convince authorities that he's an orphan from Ireland in an elaborate scheme to avoid sexual assault charges.

American Fugitive Faked His Own Death to Evade Rape Charges
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Last January, a 35-year-old orphan from Ireland named Arthur Knight was arrested in a Glasgow, Scotland, hospital.

Only the man wasn’t Knight, nor was he an orphan from Ireland. He is Nicholas Rossi, a Rhode Island fugitive who’d faked his own death and fled the U.S. to avoid prosecution for a sexual assault in Orem, Utah, per a statement from the Utah County Attorney’s office.

Ever since his incarceration, Rossi has reportedly attempted to convince authorities that he was, in fact, Arthur Knight (a reference to King Arthur and the knights of the round table? Unclear.). This week, an Edinburgh court ruled that Rossi had hatched an elaborate plan—one that even included an obituary on a memorial website, claiming he’d died of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in February 2020—to escape charges. Rossi’s true identity was confirmed via his tattoos and fingerprints after he was apprehended “for obstructing the course of justice and allegedly behaved in a threatening or abusive manner” at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital.

“I am ultimately satisfied on the balance of probabilities, by the evidence of fingerprint, photographic and tattoo evidence, taken together, supported by the evidence of changes of name, that Mr. Knight is indeed Nicholas Rossi, the person sought for extradition by the United States,” Judge Norman McFadyen said. A hearing that will determine when Rossi will be extradited to U.S. authorities is reportedly set for March.

“In 2018 the DNA profile from the Utah sexual assault came back as a match to a sexual assault case in Ohio,” Utah County Attorney David Leavitt said in a statement following Rossi’s arrest. Rossi was convicted on two sex-related charges of a 21-year-old Ohio woman on Sept. 13, 2008. Authorities think it’s likely that Rossi is linked to other sexual assaults.

“I’m not going to lie to you, a part of me found it a bit suspicious,” Jeffrey Pine, who represented Rossi in 2018 and 2019 on a charge that he had failed to properly register as a sex offender because of a previous out-of-state sex crime conviction, told NBC. “I found the circumstances a little suspicious. But on the other hand, I accepted what his wife told me. I mean, I don’t want to insult someone by saying they’re not dead.” Yes, Rossi is married.

It’s still unclear when Rossi fled the U.S., but Leavitt said had he not been hospitalized for COVID-19, he likely wouldn’t have been discovered. Pictures of Rossi’s tattoos and fingerprints that were circulated via an Interpol red notice aided Scottish officers in his identification.

“It’s a lot more difficult than people imagine,” Leavitt said of tracking down people evading charges. To be fair, it’s hard enough bringing alleged sex offenders to justice in this current system at all.

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