A defense attorney for the man arrested in connectioin with last Christmas Eve’s triple homicide exclusively shared new details about his client with NBC 7, including his hospitalization over the weekend and past weapons charges.
Carlo Gallapo Mercado, 29, was being treated at UC San Diego Medical Center Sunday under guard after he was injured while in custody at the San Diego Central Jail.
His attorney Michael Berg said Mercado was hurt sometime after being booked into jail early Saturday morning on three first-degree murder charges in connection with the slayings of Ilona Flint, Salvatore Belvedere and Gianni Belvedere. However, Berg did not give any further details about what happened to his client.
He did however take the chance to defend Mercado against the homicide allegations against him.
“There’s been no formal document charging him with any crime. He was simply arrested. There has been no evidence that I have seen that would relate him to any of the crimes,” Berg said.
The lawyer told NBC 7 his soft-spoken client “certainly adamantly denies any involvement” in the triple homicide.
As for his family, Berg said Mercado’s relatives were shocked by his arrest and “they support him 100 percent.” Even Berg was caught off guard by this arrest.
“It’s unusual because this is a young man with no prior record. He doesn’t fit the mold. I haven’t seen anything that would tie him to these homicides, to the victims,” said Berg.
The defense team plans to enter a not guilty plea at Mercado’s arraignment, scheduled for Wednesday.
Meanwhile, another case against Mercado is making its way through the court system.
Police discovered a loaded weapon in Mercado's vehicle as he was heading back from target practice on Jan. 18 -- the day after Gianni Belvedere's body was found in Riverside -- according to police records and his attorney.
Mercado was arrested for the violation months later, on April 29.
On May 5, the San Diego District Attorney’s Office filed four weapons-related charges against the suspect, which included possession of an assault weapon, possession of a silencer, manufacturing a large capacity magazine and carrying a concealed firearm in a vehicle.
According to Berg, his client pleaded guilty to possessing a silencer, and prosecutors dropped the three other charges.
The suspect was scheduled to be sentenced on the silencer charge on July 9 in Vista Superior Court, but that sentencing will most likely be delayed if he is arraigned on the three murder charges.
Defense attorney Kerry Armstrong – who is not related to the case – shared his theories on how the weapons charges could be related to the triple homicide case.
“It could be that this guy was a suspect for a long time and they just wanted something to put him in jail for a while until they could complete the investigation,” Armstrong said.
His second theory is that officers arrested Mercado on a fluke for the weapons charges.
“And then, when he’s in jail, they ran the ballistics on the gun that he was caught with, and it matched up with the ballistics used in the homicide – or homicides,” said Armstrong.
The San Diego Police Department is expected to release more details about their six-month investigation into the Mission Valley homicides at a press conference Monday.
NBC 7 will be streaming that announcement live online.