One week after a San Diego Man pleaded guilty to murdering three young San Diego residents by shooting them to death in the parking lot of Mission Valley mall on Christmas Eve 2013, NBC 7 has obtained records detailing, for the first time, the evidence prosecutors planned to present to a jury, had the case gone to trial.
On Jan. 12, Carlo Mercado, 31, pleaded guilty to three counts of murder for the December 2013 killings of brothers Gianni and Salvatore Belvedere and Gianni's fiancee, Ilona Flint.
Originally, Mercado pleaded not-guilty and was scheduled to face trial in June. At one point, Mercado’s attorneys told the court Mercado was incompetent to stand trial, a claim later determined to be inaccurate and the decision overruled by the judge in the case.
The mysterious murders shook San Diego to its core and left most residents, including family members of the victims and suspect, asking one question: why? To read a timeline of the events behind the triple homicide, click here.
On Friday, NBC 7 obtained the Statement of Facts Deputy District Attorney Brian Erickson submitted to the court on the day of the plea change.
While the documents do not provide major updates to information previously released, the documents did detail a clear timeline of what investigators believed led up to and followed the triple homicide along with new information about Mercado’s history leading up to the crimes.
To read the records in full, click here.
In the documents, Erickson said investigators confirmed through cell phone tower records neither Mercado, nor all three victims’ phones were ever in the same place at the same time in the year prior to the murders taking place.
“There was absolutely no connection found between the victim’s alleged drug use and their deaths,” Erickson said, adding that investigators found no evidence anyone had any reason to want to kill the victims or their families.
In the Statement of Facts, Erickson also details evidence, found by investigators, that suggests Mercado had a history of motorcycle accidents and attempting to “fleece” money from other drivers involved.
One incident was in August 2012. According to court records, Mercado crashed his motorcycle into the back of a man’s truck and later that day sent the driver “an aggressive email” where a list of motorcycle parts were listed with prices for each repair.
In that situation, according to the court records, Mercado told the driver the total cost for repairs came out to over $2,000 but Mercado said he would be willing to settle for half of the amount.
The records state a San Diego District Attorney Investigator contacted the driver of that vehicle who explained Mercado had crashed his motorcycle into the back of the driver’s truck while at a stop light and the driver assisted Mercado with his bike and called police.
When the driver received the “aggressive email” from Mercado, the records show the driver verified with his father and insurance company he would not be responsible for the costs Mercado was asking for and ignored Mercado’s email and text messages.
The Statement of Facts presented evidence Mercado filed a false insurance claim on his motorcycle days after the triple-homicide took place.
Mercado’s motorcycle played a role in the investigation as according to prosecutors, Mercado, after killing Gianni and fleeing the scene in Gianni’s car, returned to the parking lot of Westfield Mission Valley mall to remove his motorcycle he had left behind.
It was then, according to prosecutors, Mercado came into contact with Flint and Salvatore, murdering them both, fearing they would report seeing Mercado driving Gianni’s car.
According to the records, Mercado fled the scene that night, leaving his motorcycle behind, and returned the next day with a rented U-Haul truck and trailer to remove the motorcycle from the crime scene after San Diego Police Department investigators were no longer at the scene.
Two days later, prosecutors said Mercado, fearing his motorcycle could tie him to the crime scene, staged a fake motorcycle accident and filed a claim with his insurance provider.
The Geico Insurance Adjuster that handled Mercado’s claim told investigators that he doubted the story Mercado told about the fake accident, but processed the claim anyway for a total of $2,539.
At the change of plea hearing for Mercado, Erickson credited Border Patrol officers who pulled over and inspected Mercado’s vehicle less than a month after the homicides as providing the critical evidence that led to Mercado’s arrest.
On Jan. 18, 2014, a day after Gianni’s car and body were discovered in the city of Riverside, which prosecutors believe Mercado planted, agents at the Border Patrol Checkpoint on the I-5 near San Clemente pulled Mercado over for a routine stop.
While searching Mercado’s vehicle at that checkpoint stop, Border Patrol agents found an AR-15 assault rifle, a .45 caliber semi-automatic handgun and a .22 caliber handgun with a modified silencer.
Agents eventually released Mercado from that stop, unaware of his connection to the murders, but held Mercado’s weapons for further investigation.
It was that move by Border Patrol Agents that Erickson credits as a major turning point in the investigation, as the DNA on those firearms was uploaded to California’s DNA database system CODIS and was linked to DNA that was discovered at the Mission Valley and Riverside crime scenes.
Three days after the DNA match was determined, Mercado was arrested on June 21, 2014 for the murders of Gianni and Salvatore Belvedere and Ilona Flint.
In the court records, Erickson said investigators found gun manuals and instructions for making a homemade silencer for the .22 handgun on Mercado’s computer.
The court records also detail new information about Mercado’s mental health and suicide attempt following his arrest.