Man pleads not guitly in triple murder case - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Man pleads not guitly in triple murder case

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Murder suspect Carlo Mercado Murder suspect Carlo Mercado

SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) – A man accused in the deaths of two brothers and the fiancee of one of the men was charged Wednesday with three counts of murder, and may be eligible for the death penalty.

A judge denied bail for Carlo Mercado, 29. Mercado pleaded not guilty in the deaths of the Salvatore and Gianni Belvedere and Ilona Flint.

Mercado was jailed Friday and later transferred to UC San Diego Medical Center to be treated for an overdose of Tylenol, according to a law enforcement source.  His online booking screen currently indicates he is being housed on the 3rd floor, Psychiatric Security Unit of the San Diego Central Jail.

Meantime, a Facebook page entitled Justice for Salvatore and Gianna Belvedere and Ilona Flint posted a new statement shortly before 9 a.m. Tuesday, which has since been removed:

"Here is the current update on information we just received. It's been confirmed Carlo Mercado worked at Target in the Mission Valley Mall. Although we believe in a fair trial this news is upsetting because I'm sure quite a few San Diegans go to that Target. I personally shop there often and I keep wondering if I have seen him. This case needs to hit home for everyone as this tragedy could happen to any one of us or our loved ones."

"We're holding up. It's a sense of relief to get this info that someone's been caught. We just got the news so we're just still processing everything," sister of murder victims, Antoinette Belvedere, said.

CBS News 8 obtained images of Target with security cameras seen along the perimeter of the store. On Christmas Eve, on the other side of Mission Valley Mall outside of Macy's, Salvatore Belvedere and Ilona Flint, both 22, were shot to death. Roughly three weeks later, after his fiancee and brother were killed, police found the body of Gianni Belvedere, 24, in the trunk of his missing car 100 miles away in a Riverside parking lot.

One day after Gianni's body was found, Mercado was stopped at the San Onofre checkpoint. Officers confiscated two handguns, an assault rifle and a silencer. Other charges were dropped, but he pleaded guilty to possessing a silencer on May 5.

Mercado was taken into custody in Mira Mesa Friday night, charged with three counts of first-degree murder

"It is certainly is a far cry for someone who owns guns and target shoots and the next logical step is a triple homicide," Mercado's attorney, Michael Berg, said.

During a news conference Monday, homicide detectives were tight-lipped about the reasons for Mercado's arrest.

"This arrest came after investigators and forensic lab personnel developed substantial probable cause for Mercado's arrest," San Diego Police Homicide Unit Lt. Mike Hastings said.

His attorney said Mercado denies any involvement in the murders and didn't know the victims. Berg said Mercado was coming home from target practice when he was stopped at the checkpoint.

Mercado's family is supportive of him and released this statement:

"On behalf of Carlo Mercado we would like the community to know how sorry we are any pain the Flint and Belvedere families have suffered and are suffering."

In response, the victims' families posted this on their Facebook page:

"The Belvedere family is aware of the suspect's family news release and they cannot comment at this time directly or indirectly... We want to thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers during this difficult time. We stand united with the Flint family in the pursuit of justice."

A public relations firm for the Target corporation declined to confirm Mercado's employment or the store where he may have worked.  Target emailed CBS News 8 the following statement:

"Our thoughts and sympathies go out to the victims' families and friends. However, out of privacy for all current and former Target team members, we typically do not release employment information in situations like these."

UPDATE:  On Wednesday morning, CBS News 8 contacted a former coworker, who said he had worked with Mercado at the Target store in Mira Mesa for the last couple years.  In an interview Monday, Mercado's attorney said the suspect had worked at the Target chain for approximately eight years.

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