A San Diego mall parking lot outside of a Macy’s store was the site of a Christmas Eve tragedy that has turned into a bizarre mystery. A 22-year-old woman is dead, and her male companion, also 22, was left critically injured after someone shot the pair as they sat in a car at about 1:15 Tuesday morning, San Diego’s CBS News Channel 8 reported.
A third man vanished without a trace.
So far, police have no idea who shot the pair or why. The identity of the victims only deepens the mystery. The woman, who somehow called 911 before dying though she had been shot in the head as well as the upper body, was Ilona Gregorievna, who goes by the name Ilona Flint, of Provo, Utah.
The man shot with her was identified as Salvatore Belvedere, brother of Flint’s boyfriend.
The missing man is, in fact, Flint’s boyfriend Gianni Belvedere, described in some reports as her finacée.
In the accompanying photo, which appeared on Flint’s Facebook page, Gianni is to the left of her, Salvatore to the right.
The Macy’s store was open for last-minute Christmas shopping at the time. Gianni Belvedere was reported to be with his brother and girlfriend at the Westfield Mission Valley Mall, in a central area of San Diego witnesses described as generally safe.
“Normally, the most excitement you see here is bumper accidents on this little intersection,” Jerry Hill, manager of a Christmas tree lot outside the mall, told TV station NBC San Diego.
Police are seeking a person they described as a man between 5’9″ and 5’11” tall, wearing tan pants, but of undetermined race. This man was seen driving a Honda Sedan possibly of the 2009, 2010 or 2011 model years.
Gianni Belvedere is reported to own a Toyota Camry with a Utah license plate, number B154VZ.
All three had once gone to school together at a Provo charter school, Walden School of Liberal Arts. Gianni and Ilona began dating while teenagers there. The brothers both worked in their family’s local Italian restaurant while in school, according to research by the U-T San Diego newspaper.
They transferred to Provo High School, where one friend there described Gianni and Ilona as “kind of inseparable.”
When the family sold the restaurant and relocated to San Diego, Ilona followed them there, where she and Gianni continued their relationship.
The Belvedere brothers have three sisters, who read a plea for help in finding their missing brother on local TV yesterday.
“Please, please if you know his whereabouts or if you have seen him or his car, we’re asking that you please contact San Diego police. Our family has been through a lot and we need your prayers and we hope to bring Gian home,” they said in their statement. “It’s an unusual thing to happen and this is very unlike Gian, so we are here today to ask for everybody to look for him because we don’t have a clue where he could be.”
Police have not speculated about a suspect or motive in the heartbreaking crime. They are currently examining surveillance video of the parking lot and interviewing witnesses in an attempt to figure out what happened.