Judge sends triple murder suspect to mental hospital

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Carlo Gallopa Mercado

Carlo Gallopa Mercado at his arraignment on three counts of murder

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SAN DIEGO — A man accused in the fatal shootings of three people, including two killed in a car outside a mall in Mission Valley last Christmas Eve, is not mentally competent to stand trial, a judge ruled Monday.

After reviewing three reports, Judge Joseph Brannigan found that 29-year- old Carlo Mercado does not understand the charges against him and cannot assist in his own defense. Criminal proceedings remain suspended.

Mercado will be sent to Patton State Hospital until his competency is restored, up to a maximum of three years.

BelvedereMurderVictims
Salvatore Belvedere (l), Gianni Belevedere (m) and Ilona Flint (r)

Mercado is charged with murder in the deaths of Ilona Flint and Salvatore Belvedere last Dec. 24 and the murder of Belvedere’s older brother, Gianni, who was engaged to Flint. His decomposed body was discovered in the trunk of his car in Riverside on Jan. 17. The motive for the killings is unclear.

Deputy District Attorney Brian Erickson told a judge at a preliminary hearing that Gianni Belvedere, 24, was last heard from about 11:30 p.m. last Dec. 23 when his phone conversation with a male relative abruptly ended.

Salvatore Belvedere and Flint, both 22, were shot about 90 minutes later in the parking lot of Westfield Mission Valley Mall, which was open late for last-minute holiday shoppers. Erickson said a silencer was probably used in the killings because no gunshots were heard on a 911 call from Flint as she was shot.

The prosecutor said Mercado’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.

Mercado was arrested Jan. 18 at the San Clemente checkpoint when an agent noticed a weapons case in the back seat of his vehicle. Authorities said that an assault rifle, two handguns and a homemade silencer were found in the car.

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