The families of the victims of a triple homicide case that has captivated San Diego since Christmas Eve 2013 said they will continue to “stand united” in their quest for justice and plan to help other families impacted by violence.
Late Monday night, the Belvedere family released the following statement regarding the killings of their loved ones, brothers Salvatore and Gianni Belvedere and Ilona Flint:
“We want to thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers during this difficult time. We stand united with the Flint family in the pursuit of justice. In the near future we will be updating our website with a detailed personal letter to thank everyone for everything they have done to help us in getting justice for our loved ones.
We look forward to creating a non-profit charity in Gianni, Sal, and Ilona's name that will help families who lose loved ones to violence. It's our goal to not let this tragedy define the legacy of our children. Instead, we plan on giving them the legacy they deserve by helping other people.”
Earlier on Monday, the San Diego Police Department held a news briefing detailing the arrest of San Diego resident Carlo Mercado, 29, the man accused of killing all three victims. Homicide Lt. Mike Hastings said the case had been turned over to the San Diego District Attorney’s Office for prosecution.
According to police, Mercado was arrested on June 20 in the 8700 block of Westmore Street in connection with the triple homicide case that had remained unsolved since Christmas Eve 2013. He was booked in San Diego Central Jail on three counts of first-degree murder.
News of Mercado’s arrest first broke Saturday. At that time, Antoinette Belvedere – sister of the slain Belvedere brothers – said the family felt a sense of relief, but was still processing the shocking new developments.
Mercado is scheduled to appear in court Wednesday. His attorney, Michael Berg, said his client will enter a not guilty plea.
The suspect was previously arrested earlier this year on four gun-related charges, Berg confirmed. Public records show Mercado had pleaded guilty to them, with his sentencing for those charges scheduled for July 9.
As for the victims of this triple homicide case, Flint and Salvatore were gunned down in a parking lot outside a Macy's department store at Mission Valley Mall in the early hours of Dec. 24, 2013. Flint died at the scene, while Salvatore died a few days later from injuries sustained in the shooting.
Gianni -- Salvatore's brother and Flint's longtime boyfriend-turned-fiance -- went missing immediately following the shooting of his loved ones. The San Diego Police Department launched a missing person search for Gianni over the next several weeks.
Finally, on Jan. 17, 2014, Gianni's body was discovered in the trunk of his car in Riverside, Calif., about an hour-and-a-half north of San Diego County. He, too, had been fatally shot.
Until Mercado’s arrest over the weekend, a suspect had not been caught in connection with the killings.
The Belvedere family runs a website titled "Justice for Sal, Gianni and Ilona" which is frequently updated with new information and personal stories of the victims, as shared by their loved ones.