Judge rules that triple-murder suspect mentally competent for tr - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Judge rules that triple-murder suspect mentally competent for trial

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A judge ruled Tuesday that a man charged in the shooting deaths of three people, two of whom were killed in Mission Valley on Christmas Eve two years ago, is mentally competent to stand trial.
   
Carlo Mercado, 30, is charged with murder 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.
   
Several doctors and social workers testified during a two-day sanity hearing before Superior Court Judge Frederic Link.
   
The judge found that Mercado understands the charges against him and can assist his attorney at trial. A status conference was set for Jan. 29.
   
District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis has yet to decide if Mercado will face the death penalty or life in prison without parole if convicted.
   
Deputy District Attorney Brian Erickson 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.

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