Judge orders mental tests for triple-murder suspect
SAN DIEGO — A mental competency examination was ordered Wednesday for a man accused of fatally shooting three people, including two killed in a car outside the Westfield Mission Valley mall last Christmas Eve.
Carlo Gallopa Mercado, 29, is charged in the deaths of Ilona Flint and Salvatore Belvedere, who were shot at 1:11 a.m. Dec. 24 in the mall parking lot, and Belvedere’s older brother, who was Flint’s fiance. Gianni Belvedere’s decomposed body was found in the trunk of his car in Riverside on Jan. 17.
All three were shot in the head with a .22-caliber handgun belonging to Mercado, according to evidence produced at a preliminary hearing earlier this month. A motive was not disclosed. A detective wrote in a search warrant that he didn’t know if Mercado acted alone or if he had help from other co- conspirators.
Today, Deputy Public Defender Gary Gibson told Judge Kathleen Lewis that he had a doubt as to Mercado’s mental competency for trial. The judge suspended criminal proceedings, ordered the defendant held without bail, and set a hearing on the results of the evaluation for Oct. 28.
Deputy District Attorney Brian Erickson told a judge at the preliminary hearing that Gianni Belvedere, 24, was last heard from about 11:30 p.m. on Dec. 23 when his phone conversation with a man abruptly ended.
Salvatore Belvedere and Flint, both 22, were shot about 90 minutes later, the prosecutor said, adding that a silencer was probably used in the killings because no gunshots were heard on a 911 call from Flint as she was shot.
The defendant’s DNA was found on a can of air freshener and tape used to hold down the trigger to quash the smell of Gianni Belvedere’s decomposing body in the trunk of his car, Erickson alleged.
On Jan. 18, a “despondent” Mercado was stopped about 4:45 a.m. at the San Clemente checkpoint when an agent noticed a weapons case in the back seat of his Ford Explorer, Erickson said.
Mercado admitted having an assault rifle in the car, but didn’t mention two loaded handguns — a .22-caliber and a .45-caliber — magazines and boxes of ammunition found in a backpack on the front seat.
A homemade silencer was also found in the vehicle.
Mercado was arrested for the shootings of Flint and the Belvedere brothers in late June. District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis has yet to decide whether Mercado will face the death penalty or life in prison without parole if convicted.