A former FBI special agent, Brad Garrett has come up with what he believes might be valuable clues to solve the San Diego Christmas Eve murder mystery. He says the victims of the fatal double shooting outside a San Diego shopping mall in the early hours of December 24 last year might have been killed because of drugs and revenge.
His comments follow the discovery of a decomposed body in the trunk of a car on Friday that is owned by the family of one of the victims. It was found about 100 miles from the first murder scene, parked in a strip mall parking lot in Riverside County. It had only been there for a few days when a passer-by smelt a foul odor as she walked past the car, a dark green Camry.
Interviewed yesterday by ABC’s Good Morning America anchor, George Stephanopoulos, Garrett said there was no doubt these were intentional murders:
“Somebody wanted them dead. And typically with these types of shootings it usually goes back to some sort of revenge. You owe me money; you owe me drugs etcetera.”
His comments are exactly what one would expect from someone intent on solving the tragic San Diego Christmas Eve murder mystery.
The Christmas Eve victims were Ilona Flint and Salvatore Belvedere, both 22-years-old. They had gone to the mall, Macy’s, on December 23 with Salvatore’s older brother Gianni, who was also Ilona’s fiancé. They were shot in a car and discovered by police after Ilona had managed to call 911. According to a dispatcher, she “yelled she was shot and not further.” She died on the scene and Salvatore died a short while later.
According to a police officer on the scene, witnesses “saw a male walking from the back of the victim’s vehicle and get in the car and drive away.” Members of the public were asked to look out for an African-American whom witnesses saw leaving the crime scene in a dark gray Honda Civic or Ford. He was described as being thin, between five foot nine and five foot 11 inches and wearing tan-colored pants and a dark-colored sweater that had stripes on both the sleeves.
However there was no trace of 24-year-old Gianni or his car, a dark green 2004 Toyota Camry licensed in Utah (plate number B154VZ).
On Saturday ABC10 News repeated an earlier interview with the Belvedere’s uncle Otto who had refused to comment on the grim discovery of another dead body which has added a new twist to the San Diego Christmas Eve murder mystery. He said:
“He was there, you know, he was there. They know he was there. They have an idea that he saw everything. I think he just ran away. He just got scared to death and ran away. I don’t think he had anything to do with it whatsoever.”
However he did manage to run away, so how likely is this to be about drugs and revenge?
Even though police have not identified the body – and will not until an autopsy is completed this week – the general consensus is that the body discovered in the trunk Friday, is his.
According to 10News’s Preston Phillips, Deputy Sheriff Mike Vasque from Riverside County has confirmed that the car and the body have been linked to the fatal Christmas Eve killings, even though the evidence is split between two counties. The only hint that it might be about drugs and revenge, and that these could be mammoth clues to solving the mystery murders, comes from Garrett, who asks the questions: “Did he witness the shooting? Was he abducted after the shooting?”
Garrett, who is now an ABC News consultant, told George Stephanopoulos:
“Whoever went there (Macy’s) went to kill all three of them, and for whatever reason Gianni was not with them. Does this go back to drugs? It’s hard to fathom where this goes, but they were killed for some revenge or some pay-off or some version of that.”
Asked by Stephanopoulos what he would do if he was profiling the case, and what kind of initial sketch he would come up with, he said:
“You would really have to go into the background of all three of them. In other words is there some sort of connection – does it go back to Utah – is it just in southern California?”
So what is the “next step in trying to crack this case?” asked Stephanopoulos, clearly wondering who will solve the San Diego Christmas Eve murder mystery, and find the killer.
“What is the connection between the three of them? Cell phones, emails; there’s something in their backgrounds that lead this to occur.”
Ultimately Garrett believes that the real key to the mystery may only be found in Riverside, with the autopsy. He does not believe it was a case of suicide and wonders whether the man in the boot was tortured. Of course the police are also likely to look at the possibilities of drugs and revenge to see if they can find any other clues to the horrific killings in San Diego on Christmas Eve last year.
By Penny Swift