The shocking Christmas Eve San Diego triple murder that took the lives of two young brothers, Gianni and Salvatore Belvedere, as well as Gianni Belverdere’s fiancee Ilona Flint, may finally have its veil of mystery lifted Tuesday, when the lone suspect in the vicious shootings makes a court appearance for a preliminary hearing — an appearance originally set for October 20, but moved ahead by seven weeks for reasons that remain unclear.
Salvatore Belvedere and Ilona Flint, both 22, were shot dead in the early hours of December 24 as they sat in a car in the parking lot of a San Diego mall where Flint was employed. Gianni, the older Belvedere brother at 24, went missing that night, sparking rumors that there may have been some sort of a “love triangle” among the three.
But that speculation was ended when Gianni Belvedere’s body was found on January 17, in the trunk of a car in Riverside, California, about 90 miles north of where the parking lot shootings took place.
On June 20, police arrested 29-year-old Carlo Mercado of San Diego. But prosecutors and police have said nothing in public about what may have motivated Mercado to kill the Belvedere brothers, and the young woman who had already been accepted as a beloved member if their family.
But at Tuesday’s hearing, prosecutors are expected to present their evidence against Mercado and possibly state what they believe was the motive for the triple killing.
It has been reported, though not confirmed, that Mercado worked in a Target store in the Westfield Mission Valley Mall, the same mall where Flint was employed in a Macy’s department store.
The murders took place in the mall’s parking lot.
Though police have not said why they took nearly six months to make an arrest in the case, it appears they had Mercado on their radar as early as January 18, the day after Gianni Belvedere’s body was discovered in Riverside.
That was the day Mercado was stopped at a Border Patrol checkpoint and found to be in possession of guns and a silencer, which were all confiscated. But he was not arrested on gun charges until more than three months after that on April 29, when Mercado was charged with possession of an assault weapon and silencer, carrying a large-capacity magazine and possessing a concealed weapon in his vehicle when he was stopped by the Border Patrol.
Most of the charges were dropped when Mercado pleaded guilty to possessing the silencer and agreed to 18 months probation.
But on June 20 he was arrested at his home in San Diego in connection with the murders of Flint and the Belvedere brothers.
Mercado has pleaded not guilty to the murder charges but could face the death penalty if convicted.