Police Chief Shelly Zimmerman praised the homicide team that identified Carlo Gallopa Mercado as the suspect in the murders of Illona Flint and Salvatore and Gianni Belvedere, but she would not discuss the evidence tying him to the killing or a possible motive for the triple murder.
In response to a question about whether the suspect and victims knew each other or had any other prior connections, homicide Lt. Mike Hastings said, “I’m not sure there was any relation.”
Mercado’s arrest came nearly six months after Ilona Flint and Salvatore Belvedere, both 22, were found fatally shot in the mall parking lot early Dec. 24. Flint managed to call 911 shortly before she died. The younger Belvedere brother succumbed to his wounds at a hospital two days later.
Gianni Belvedere, 24, went missing following the shooting of his fiance and brother but was ultimately found dead in the trunk of a car in January outside of a fast-foot restaurant in Riverside.
Authorities later determined his cause of death to be gunshot wounds to the head, the same cause of death that befell his younger brother and his fiancee.
Just one day after the elder Belvedere brother’s body was found, Mercado was stopped at a checkpoint near Camp Pendleton and law enforcement officers confiscated weapons and a silencer, U-T San Diego reported.
He was initially charged with possession of an assault weapon, possession of a silencer, manufacturing a large-capacity magazine and having a concealed weapon in the vehicle. But he pleaded guilty to a felony charge of possessing the silencer, and prosecutors dropped the remaining charges, U-T San Diego reported.
The family of Mercado released this statement Monday:
“On behalf of Carlos Mercado, we would like the community to know how sorry we are for any pain the Flint and Belvedere families have suffered and are suffering. We have only had limited contact with Carlo since his arrest and have not been made aware of any evidence against him. We remain fully supportive of him and ask the public to respect our privacy during this difficult time.”
Mercado was being held without bail at San Diego Central Jail, with arraignment scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.
Over the weekend, the suspect was hospitalized. Authorities declined to disclose why he needed medical treatment.