Arrest in Christmas Eve Triple Killing in San Diego

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An arrest has been made in the triple-homicide mystery that has enthralled San Diego since Christmas Eve 2013, San Diego police and family members of the victims confirmed Saturday.

The San Diego Police Department said Carlo Gallapo Mercado, 29, was arrested Friday in the 8700 block of Westmore Street in San Diego. He was booked on three counts of first-degree murder in connection with the slayings of Ilona Flint, 22, and brothers Salvatore Belvedere, 22, and Gianni Belvedere, 24.

Mercado was booked into San Diego Central Jail. Inmate records indicate he's scheduled to appear in court for the first time Wednesday.

At a quick media briefing held Saturday, Antoinette Belvedere, sister of Gianni and Salvatore, said the family had gotten a phone call from detectives Saturday morning telling them an arrest had been made in all three of the killings.

She said the family did not know the suspect tied to the triple-homicide case.

"We ask that you please respect our privacy as we process this new information," said Antoinette. "Our families want to extend our deepest appreciation and thanks to the men and women of the San Diego Police Department."

Antoinette said the family feels "relief" at this point, but is still trying to process the news.

"We're holding up. You know, it's a sense of relief to get this information that somebody's been caught, and we just got the news, so we're still processing everything," she added.

Flint and Salvatore were gunned down in a parking lot outside a Macy's department store at Mission Valley Mall in the early hours of Dec. 24, 2013. Flint died at the scene, while Salvatore died a few days later from injuries sustained in the shooting.

Gianni — Salvatore's brother and Flint's longtime boyfriend-turned-fiance -- went missing following the shooting of his loved ones. The San Diego Police Department launched a missing person search for Gianni over the next several weeks.

Finally, on Jan. 17, 2014, Gianni's body was discovered in the trunk of his car in Riverside, Calif., about an hour-and-a-half north of San Diego County. He, too, had been fatally shot.

The case has remained opened and unsolved for nearly six months.

The families of the victims have tried diligently to increase the reward for information on this case in hopes of bringing forward fresh leads. The San Diego Crime Stoppers reward fund for this case increased to $10,000 earlier this year.

The San Diego Police Department said Chief Shelley Zimmerman plans to hold a news conference on these latest developments on Monday at 11:30 a.m. NBC 7 will stream that briefing live on our website.