SAN DIEGO – A triple murder outside a Mission Valley shopping mall on December 23-24 2013 went unresolved for more than three years, until suspect Carlo Mercado, 31, pleaded guilty on January 12, 2017.
Mercado pleaded guilty to three counts of murder with special circumstance allegations for the murders of Ilona Flint, 22, Gianni Belvedere, 24, and Salvatore Belvedere, 22. Mercado was immediately sentenced to three consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole. The plea agreement allows Mercado to avoid the death penalty.
“The murders left many San Diego residents unnerved as the homicides were random, meaning there was no connection between the killer and those he shot dead,” said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) President Alan Barcelona. “This case involved many detectives, criminalists, agents and officers from local, state and federal law enforcement departments. It took time, but they have provided justice for the victims’ families and helped to ensure this killer is never let loose in society.”
Mercado wasn’t arrested for the murders until June 2014. Five months after his arrest he was found incompetent to stand trial and sent to Patton State Hospital. In December 2015, a judge determined Mercado’s competency had been restored and criminal proceedings against him resumed in January 2016.
With the guilty plea, Mercardo admitted shooting Gianni Belvedere in the head after the two got into an argument while Gianni waited in the mall parking lot for his fiancé, Ilona Flint, to get off work. According to reports, Mercado had a motorcycle at the mall but wanted Gianni’s car. Mercado shot Gianni and left the scene in Gianni’s car with Gianni’s body inside. An hour and a half later, Mercado returned to the parking lot in Gianni’s car, possibly to retrieve his motorcycle and was confronted by Ilona and Gianni’s brother, Salvatore. Mercado shot both of them. Ilona died at the scene and Salvatore died a day later.
According to Deputy DA Brian Erickson, Mercado fled the scene a second time in Gianni’s car with Gianni’s body still in it. Mercado stuffed Gianni’s body in the trunk, applied a false license plate on the car and parked it near his home and work. Three weeks later, Mercado abandoned the car in Riverside.
Cell phone evidence and Mercado’s motorcycle linked him to the Mission Valley crime scene. Ballistic evidence linked the gun, registered to Mercado, as the weapon used to murder Gianni, Sal and Ilona. DNA evidence linked Mercado to Gianni’s car and the bloody Riverside crime scene. DDA Erickson also presented evidence found in Mercado’s home and car, his phone and computers.
Helping to bring this case to justice were the:
- San Diego Police Department and Crime Lab,
- San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office,
- Riverside Police Department,
- Riverside County Sheriff’s Coroner’s Office,
- Homeland Security Border Patrol and Investigations,
- Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives,
- California Department of Justice Bureau of Firearms
- California Department of Justice Bureau of Forensic Services