SAN DIEGO - A Riverside County Sheriff's deputy told 10News on Saturday that the body of a 24-year-old man found in the trunk of a car in Riverside has not been identified and that an autopsy has been scheduled for mid-week.
A caller notified police at 11:45 a.m. Friday that a car parked in a lot at a shopping mall at 19530 Van Buren Blvd. was emitting a foul odor from its trunk area, said Riverside police Sgt. Daniel Russell.
Gabby Alcarez, who works at a Subway in the shopping center, told 10News, "One of my coworkers … she said before the cops arrived that she parked two cars down and she could smell it. She says the smell was strange."
Officers responded, opened the trunk and found a man's body, he said, adding the license plate revealed the vehicle was related to the missing person case in San Diego.
San Diego police were notified and responded to the scene along with Riverside police homicide detectives, Russell said.
Riverside County Sheriff's Deputy Mike Vasquez told 10News on Saturday that the body has not been identified and that an autopsy is scheduled for mid-week, possibly Wednesday.
The coroner's office, which reported the man's age as 24, listed the cause of death as homicide. Vasquez says that though the body was listed on the coroner's website as a victim of homicide, suicide has not been ruled out.
On the coroner's website, it notes that the next of kin has been notified. Vasquez says that means the registered owner of the car has been told that a body was found in the car. No name was given, because there is no name yet to give, he said.
The vehicle is related to a double-fatal shooting that took place at a San Diego shopping mall at 1:15 a.m. on Dec. 24, said San Diego police Lt. Mike Hastings
Police responding to the 1600 block of Camino Del Rio North on that date found two people - Salvatore Belvedere and Ilona Flint, both 22, shot inside a car, he said. Flint died at the scene, and Belvedere several days later.
10News scoured through police radio traffic from the original night of the crime to see if anything stood out that could shed light on what happened.
"Female yelled she was shot and no further," a dispatcher said.
When police arrived on scene, they found Flint dead from a gunshot wound to the head and Belvedere clinging to life after he too had been shot.
In addition to the two shooting victims, police also came in contact with witnesses.
"Our witnesses here saw a male walking to the back of the victim's vehicle then get into the car and drive away, so it's possible they got in the car but it's not for sure," an officer said.
The suspect description one or more witnesses gave police did not match that of Gianni Belvedere, Flint's fiancé and Belvedere's brother, who family members say was there around the time of the shooting but has been missing ever since.
"Suspect possibly left in a 2008/2011 dark gray Honda Civic four-door. Person is a black male, mid-20s, 5'9", thin build, wearing a dark sweater with stripes on both sleeves," a dispatcher said over the original police radio traffic. "He was last seen walking away to the passenger side of a Honda and that vehicle was last seen westbound Camino Del Rio North."
Hastings said, "Since that incident, Salvatore's brother, 24-year-old Gianni Belvedere, became a missing person and police began searching for a 2004 dark green Toyota with a Utah license plate of B154VZ."
That is the vehicle where the body was found Friday, he said.
Photographs from the scene showed the vehicle had been backed into a parking space with landscaping on one side of it.
Alcarez says the car had not been parked there for long.
"I did work two days ago and I didn't see a... I parked right where the car is parked. I usually park in that same spot and it wasn't there," she said.
It conflicts with what a reporter on the scene told 10News -- that whoever it is, they had been dead for some time.
"It seemed from the odor and also Riverside police did mention that the body in the trunk was definitely severely decomposed," said Riverside Press-Enterprise reporter Chris Ercoli.
The Riverside Press-Enterprise reported that an employee of a business at the shopping mall told police she noticed the car parked for several days in the location where it was found.
The question is, if the body is that of Gianni Belvedere, did he kill himself or was he also murdered?
Retired SDPD homicide detective Rick Carlson told 10News, "When you find a body in the trunk of a car, it's usually unusual but not out of character for someone that was confused and disoriented and has been involved in such a horrendous event already. You'll find that sometimes when people do commit suicide they look for places that are unusual to get to so people won't find them."
The coroner's office in Riverside County listed the 24-year-old man's body as being a victim of homicide.
10News asked Carlson if that ruled out the possibility of suicide. He said no.