Suspect in Mission Valley mall triple-killing in court Tuesday

SAN DIEGO - A preliminary hearing is set to begin Tuesday for a man accused in the shooting deaths of two brothers and a woman who was engaged to one of them -- a crime that came to light when two of the victims were found mortally wounded in a parked car at a Mission Valley mall last Christmas Eve.
 
Carlo Gallopa Mercado, 29, could face the death penalty if convicted of three counts of murder and a special circumstance allegation of multiple murders. A decision on what penalty Mercado could face will be made later.
 
Mercado's arrest in late June came nearly six months after Ilona Flint and Salvatore Belvedere, both 22, were found fatally shot shortly before 1:30 a.m. Dec. 24 at Westfield Mission Valley, which was open late for last-minute holiday shopping.
 
Flint managed to call 911 shortly before she died at the scene. Belvedere died at a hospital two days later.
 
Gianni Belvedere, 24, was missing for several weeks following the shootings of his fiancee and brother. In mid-January, his body was found in the trunk of a car outside a fast-foot restaurant in Riverside. He also had been shot in the head.
 
Investigators found "substantial probable cause" linking Mercado to the slayings, homicide Lt. Mike Hastings said, but he declined to elaborate. The lieutenant said he wasn't sure there was any relation between the defendant and the victims.
 
A motive was not known.
 
Mercado was found with two pistols and an assault rifle in his car on Jan. 18 after target practice and pleaded guilty to possession of silencer, said attorney Michael Berg.
 
After the preliminary hearing, which is expected to last several days, a judge will decide whether enough evidence was presented for Mercado to stand trial.
 

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