Mental hearing ordered in mall killings case

Posted at 11:02 AM, Sep 09, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-09 14:02:58-04
SAN DIEGO -- A mental competency trial was ordered Wednesday for a man charged in the shooting deaths of three people, two of whom were killed in Mission Valley on Christmas Eve.
Carlo Mercado, 30, is charged in the Dec. 24, 2013, deaths of Ilona Flint and Salvatore Belvedere, and the killing of Belvedere's older brother, Gianni, whose decomposing body was found in the trunk of his car in Riverside on Jan. 17, 2014.
Last year, Mercado was deemed incompetent to stand trial and was sent to Patton State Hospital for treatment. He was recently returned to San Diego after doctors at Patton declared him competent.
Today, Deputy Public Defender Gary Gibson requested a trial on the question of his client's mental competency. The defense will have the burden to prove that Mercado is not competent for a criminal trial, said Deputy District Attorney Brian Erickson.
The prosecutor told a judge at a preliminary hearing last year that Gianni Belvedere, 24, was last heard from about 11:30 p.m. on Dec. 23, 2013, when his phone conversation with a male relative abruptly ended.
Salvatore Belvedere and Flint, both 22, were shot about 90 minutes later. Erickson said a silencer was probably used in the killings because no gunshots were heard on a 911 call from Flint as she was shot.
The prosecutor said Mercado's DNA was found on a can of air freshener used to mask the smell of Gianni Belvedere's decomposing body in the trunk of his car.
Mercado was arrested Jan. 18, 2014, at a San Clemente checkpoint when an agent noticed a weapons case in the back seat of his vehicle. An assault rifle, two handguns and a homemade silencer were found in the car.
San Diego police Detective Tim Norris said in a search warrant filing that he believes Mercado participated in all three killings, but wasn't sure if the defendant acted alone or if others were involved. The motive was not clear.
Mercado faces a special circumstance allegation of multiple murders. District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis has yet to decide whether Mercado would face the death penalty or life in prison without parole if convicted.
The mental competency trial is scheduled for Nov. 12. A status conference is set for Sept. 28.