The body of a man found inside a car in Riverside has been identified as a missing San Diego man, Gianni Belvedere. Belvedere went missing right after his brother and fiancée were shot of Christmas Eve. Now investigators are hoping this newest development will help them solve the case. NBC 7's Omari Fleming reports on the latest.
A car connected to a man missing since the deadly Christmas Eve shooting of his fiancée and brother outside a San Diego mall was found in Riverside, Calif., on Friday, officials confirmed. Inside the trunk, police found the decomposed body of a man.
On Saturday, a family member of the missing man confirmed the victim in the vehicle is Tierrasanta resident Gianni Belvedere, 24.
According to the San Diego Police Department, the 2004 green Toyota Camry tied to Belvedere was found at 12:30 p.m. Friday in the 19500-block of Van Buren Boulevard by Riverside police officers.
On Friday night, the website of the Riverside County coroner's office listed the person in the trunk as 24 years old, adding that the person was the "victim of a homicide."
As of 6 p.m. Saturday, the man's name had not yet been formally released by authorities, pending a full report from the Riverside coroner's office.
Police said a passerby called authorities around 11:45 a.m. Friday and told dispatchers a vehicle was parked in the area and there was a foul odor coming from the trunk area.
When officers arrived on scene, they met with the caller, who pointed out the vehicle. When officers popped open the trunk, they the man's body inside.
After running the license plates on the vehicle, officers learned the car was connected to the missing person case of Gianni Belvedere out of San Diego.
San Diego Police Department homicide detectives were called to the city north of San Diego County to investigate. They are now working alongside the Riverside Police Department on these latest developments.
On Dec. 24, 2013, at around 1:15 a.m., San Diego residents Ilona Flint and Salvatore Belvedere were critically shot by an unknown suspect in a parking lot outside a Macy’s department store at Westfield Mission Valley Mall.
Flint was shot in the head but still managed to call 911 to report the shooting, telling dispatchers she was injured near the mall. Salvatore was shot in the head and torso.
Officers located the wounded duo inside a vehicle in the 1600-block of Camino Del Rio North. Flint was pronounced dead at the scene shortly thereafter, while Salvatore was transported to a local trauma center with life-threatening wounds. His death was confirmed by the SDPD and Belvedere family on Dec. 27.
Both Flint and Salvatore were 22 years old. Flint was Gianni's longtime girlfriend-turned-fiancée, while Salvatore was Gianni's younger brother.
Following the shooting, police released a vague description of a possible shooting suspect described as a man wearing tan pants, between 5-foot-9 and 5-foot-11. Police also said a possible vehicle of interest in the case is a 2008 to 2011 dark gray Honda sedan.
A couple of days later, police and the Belvedere family confirmed that Gianni was missing and that loved ones hadn't heard from him since the fatal shootings of Flint and Salvatore.
San Diego police said Gianni has been missing since the night of Dec. 23 and was last seen at his Tierrasanta home just hours before shooting. The Belvedere family has said that Gianni may have been at the mall with Flint and Salvatore in the early morning hours of Christmas Eve.
Over the last few weeks, police have said there was no trace of the missing man. On Jan. 9, SDPD Lt. Mike Hastings confirmed Gianni’s cell phone and credit cards had not been used since he vanished.
At that time, Lt. Hastings also told NBC 7 that police had been in constant contact with the Belvedere family as investigators continued searching for leads in both the slayings and Gianni’s disappearance.
The Belvedere family has pleaded for Gianni’s safe return too, offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to their loved one.
Police issued a missing person bulletin for Gianni describing him as an Italian-American man with brown hair and brown eyes. He’s 6 feet tall, 165 pounds and likely driving a four-door, dark green 2004 Toyota Camry XLE with the Utah license plate B154VZ.
On Friday, police confirmed the car featured in that missing person bulletin was the vehicle discovered in Riverside. Detectives had not yet determined how long the car had been parked in that lot.
Meanwhile, San Diego police have yet to name a suspect in the slayings of Flint and Salvatore but investigators have said it does not appear the mall parking lot shooting was tied to any sort of robbery.
Last week, Lt. Hastings told NBC 7 that this is one of the most unusual cases he’s seen in his 20-year career. Though the Belvedere brothers and Flint are originally from Utah, Lt. Hastings said he had no reason to believe that Gianni had ever left California.
On Saturday, Riverside officials told NBC 7 that an autopsy on the man found in the trunk would not be performed until next week, possibly on Wednesday.
The family source that spoke to NBC 7 Saturday did not want to be identified and asked for privacy for the Belvedere family at this time.