Dozens gather at vigil for Mission Valley shooting victim: Prayers offered for missing brother

Uncle shares new info about what he says happened

SAN DIEGO - Dozens attended a vigil in Pacific Beach on Wednesday for a young man who was shot on Christmas Eve in the parking lot of a Mission Valley mall and offered prayers for the man's brother, who remains missing.

Sal Belvedere was inside a car at the Westfield Mission Valley Mall parking lot early Christmas Eve with his brother's fiancée, Ilona Flint, when both were gunned down. Both were shot in the head. Ilona died at the scene. Sal died two days later in the hospital.

Police have yet to name a suspect in the shootings. They are still looking for Sal's brother Gianni, who has been missing since Christmas Eve. The reward to find Gianni has been increased to $10,000.

Their sister cried as she told a crowd of 150 people what her brothers mean to her.

"You are my baby brother … my happiness, my friend, my heart and my soul," she said. "Not a moment will go by without you in my thoughts. Gianni, if you are listening, we know you have a broken heart. Come home to us. We love you. If anyone has seen Gianni, or holding him against his will, please return him to us. His family needs him."

While the Belvedere family on Wednesday refused to discuss details of the investigation, the brothers' uncle revealed new information about what he says happened that night. Otto Belvedere, the uncle of Sal and Gianni, spoke to a television station in Provo, Utah.

"We have never in our family had anything, I mean, ever," he told the station.

He says his nephews and Flint went to school together at the Walden School of Liberal Arts in Provo, Utah, where Gianni and Ilona started dating. 

"These kids knew each other for eight years," he said.

Otto says the three moved to San Diego several years ago where the brothers starting working in their father's restaurant. He believes Gianni may be in Utah. He says he knows how it may look but thinks his nephew had nothing to do with the tragedy.

"I think he just ran away… just got scared to death and ran away. He must've saw what happened," said Otto.

He also said something police have not, that Gianni was at the scene where his brother and Ilona were shot and killed.

"He was there. They know he was there," he said.

Otto says the three were doing some last-minute Christmas shopping at Westfield Mission Valley Mall. Stores like Macy's were open late for extended holiday hours.

"Sal picked up Ilona in my brother's car. Gianni was driving the other car," said Otto. "For what reason, I have no clue. I don't know what it was."

Police hope Gianni will shed light on what happened. With more questions than answers, Otto says he is certain of one thing: his missing nephew is innocent.

Police are calling Gianni a missing person and not a suspect. They believe he may be in San Diego or perhaps in Utah.

The parents of Gianni and Sal were not at the vigil but a statement was read on their behalf. It was addressed to Sal and read in part, "You were our youngest of four ... You will always have a piece of our heart."

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