Body found in trunk identified as Gianni Belvedere: Belvedere is homicide victim

Belvedere's body found in Riverside last week

SAN DIEGO - A body found in the trunk of a car in Riverside was identified Thursday as that of a missing 24-year-old man whose fiancee and brother were fatally shot in Mission Valley on Christmas Eve, authorities said.

Gianni Belvedere's body was found the afternoon of Jan. 17 by Riverside authorities based on a report about a foul odor coming from a car parked near a fast-food restaurant on Van Buren Boulevard, according to Riverside County sheriff's Detective Rick Wheeler. His death has been ruled a homicide.

Investigators had been looking for Belvedere and his dark-green 2004 Toyota Camry with Utah license plates since the Tierrasanta resident's younger brother and fiancee were found shot to death at Westfield Mission Valley mall early Dec. 24.

San Diego police did not name Belvedere as a suspect in the killings of Salvatore Belvedere and Ilona Flint, both 22, but listed him as a missing person at-risk.

Gianni Belvedere's disappearance initially raised questions about whether there had been some kind of violent end to a love triangle. However, the determination that he was killed as well changes the perspective.

About 1:15 a.m. Dec. 24, police found Flint and Salvatore Belvedere fatally shot in a car near a Christmas tree lot at the Camino del Rio North mall, which was open late for last-minute shoppers, according to homicide Lt. Mike Hastings. Both were shot in the head.

Flint, who managed to make a 911 call after being shot, died moments later. Salvatore Belvedere died in a hospital several days later.

The last known sighting of the older brother was in Mission Valley about three hours before the shootings at the mall, authorities said. A relative said Gianni Belvedere went to the mall with the victims the night of the shooting, though police disputed that.

Anyone with information that can help investigators is asked to contact Detective Rick Wheeler at 951-353-7134 or Detective Rick Cobb at 951-353-7135.

Hastings told 10News that the Riverside Police Department is the lead agency regarding the investigation into Gianni Belvedere's murder.

Hastings said San Diego police will continue to work with Riverside County authorities on this murder mystery.

At this point, there are no plans to release any public comment on this latest development.

Former FBI special agent weighs in on triple-homicide case

According to former FBI special agent Brad Garrett, those responsible for the deaths of the Belvedere brothers and Flint likely have ties to Riverside.

"Bad guys typically drop cars in the proximity of where they hang out because they know it, it's familiar to them," said Garrett, a law enforcement consultant for ABC News. "So is there a connection as far as the shooters are concerned? My guess is the answer is yes."
 
Garrett told 10News the way Gianni Belvedere died will be critical to the investigation, and he added, "If he was tortured, that tells you one thing. If he was shot with the same caliber or even identical weapon, that tells you something else, so all of the forensic comparisons are extremely important as to directions the police would be pursuing."

"Clearly, these were targeted kills," Garrett explained, adding that it's likely the Belvederes owed someone a lot of money or were involved in the drug trade.

"They had gone on credit for too long, probably had been warned, and they weren't going to take it anymore, the bad guys weren't and that's not uncommon, particularly if it has something to do with the drug trade, to start taking people out," Garrett told 10News.

If that happened, Garrett said there has to be a trail hidden in cellphone records, text messages and emails.

10News has learned the family's restaurant business was floundering and there were bankruptcies, liens and other financial issues in their background.

Garrett said friends and associates might have some answers.

"There's something not right with this puzzle and that's what the detectives have to get to. What under the surface is going on here? Were they making money some other way, other than the obvious through a restaurant business?" Garrett said.

San Diego police homicide detectives were seen questioning people at Mario's Italian Restaurant in Lakeside Thursday. They told 10News they are now "widening the scope" of their investigation.

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