Families of murder victims find “comfort” in police handling of case

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – The families of three young people who were slain last winter said Thursday that they find “some degree of solace and comfort” in the way San Diego County law enforcement has pursued the case.

The joint statement from the Belvedere and Flint families comes just days after their loved ones’ suspected killer was deemed mentally incompetent to stand trial.

On Monday, after reviewing three doctor’s 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.

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.

“In light of recent events involving the pursuit of justice for the killing (of) our beloved sons, Salvatore and Gianni Belvedere, and daughter, Ilona Flint, the Belvedere and Flint families wish to thank the San Diego community for their continuing thoughts and prayers as we struggle through these extraordinary difficult times,” the families said in their joint statement.

“We find some degree of solace and comfort in the amazing work that’s continually being performed on this case by nearly every law enforcement agency in San Diego County.”

The statement made no direct mention of Mercado or the decision to send him to a state mental hospital in lieu of proceeding to trial.

Earlier this year, 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.

Crime Stoppers continues to offer a reward in the case of information leading to the arrest of any other individuals who may have been involved in the slayings. Crime Stoppers can be reached at (888) 580-8477.

Categories: KUSI