Criminal proceedings have been suspended against the man accused of fatally shooting three San Diegans until he can undergo a mental competency evaluation, a judge ordered Wednesday.
But during an arraignment Wednesday, Mercado’s public defender Gary Gibson told Judge Kathleen Lewis he doubted his client’s mental competency to go to trial.
Judge Lewis ruled that criminal proceedings would be put on hold and that Mercado be held without bail until his mental competency exam on Oct. 10.
He will be evaluated to make sure he understands the nature of the case against him. If officials deem him competent, a trial date will be set at a status hearing on Oct. 28.
If Mercado is deemed not competent, he will to go Patton State Hospital in an attempt to restore that competency.
The suspect has pleaded not guilty to three counts of first degree murder in the Belvedere and Flint deaths that remained a mystery to San Diegans for six months.
It started when Flint and Salvatore were discovered with gunshot wounds in the Mission Valley Mall parking lot outside of Macy's on Dec. 24, 2014. Flint died at the scene, while Salvatore died at the hospital just days later.
At the same time, police began a missing person search for Salvatore's brother and Flint's fiance Gianni.
On Jan. 17, 2014, Gianni's body was found dead from a gunshot wound in his car's trunk, which was parked in Riverside, about 100 miles north of San Diego.
Inside that trunk, investigators found a Febreze canister with duct tape around the trigger, they say in an effort to mask the smell of the badly decomposing body.
Detectives testified at Mercado's preliminary hearing that they were able to pull off one black hair from that duct tape, and its DNA matched Mercado's.
A firearms analyst said the gun that killed all three victims was found in Mercado's possession when he was pulled over by Border Patrol at a San Clemente checkpoint on Jan. 18.
Finally, a crime scene investigator testified Mercado had written "R.I.P." in his smartphone's calender for Dec. 24, 2013 -- the day Salvatore and Flint were shot.
Mercado was arrested on June 21.
Earlier this month, Judge Lewis determined there was enough evidence to bind the suspect over for trial.
Mercado's attorney says his client denies all involvement in these crimes.