Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live

Dropped Off The Edge Of The Earth

Clockwise from top left, Joseph McStay, Summer McStay, Joseph Mateo McStay and Gianni McStay.
Photos via
Clockwise from top left, Joseph McStay, Summer McStay, Joseph Mateo McStay and Gianni McStay.

The way some people say it, "gone down to Mexico" is the same as falling into a black hole.

It's a common refrain when crime is committed in Southern California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas.

Killer on the loose? "Gone down to Mexico." Car was stolen? "Oh, it's down in Mexico by now." Bank robbery? "Jumped the border."


It makes sense: If you commit a crime, crossing into another country could be an effective means of escape. Law enforcement works hard, and international cooperation is improving, but Mexico remains something of an abyss, especially for people intent on disappearing.

If you live in a border town, you come to accept that the answer to "whodonit?" may never be known. And the most common speculation, offered as a salve to the unanswerable, is "Mexico."

Feb. 4 is the third anniversary of the last sighting of the McStay family of Fallbrook, Calif. Joseph and Summer McStay, along with their two young boys Gianni and Joseph Mateo, disappeared without a trace.

From CNN:

When police entered their Southern California house more than 10 days later, they found eggs on the kitchen counter and bowls of popcorn in the living room. Their two dogs were also in the home. But not a single trace of the McStays.


The family's locked and abandoned Isuzu Trooper was located February 8, 2010, in San Ysidro, just two blocks from the border. Surveillance video taken that night shows a family fitting the description of the McStays walking into Mexico.
But that surveillance video is the only bit of information the San Diego County Sheriff's Department has. Again, from the CNN story:
"This is definitely an unusual case," says Lt. Glenn Giannantonio of the San Diego Sheriff's Department's homicide division "At this point we are no closer to finding them than on the day they disappeared. I know that sounds horrible, but we just don't know what happened to them."

No motive. No arrangements for the pets. No last-minute calls to relatives. No evidence of foul play. Just gone, without a peep, for three years.


It's easy to do, when you live so close to an international border.

It's also easy to assume, when you're faced with unsolved crimes in your community. And when you've come to associate "gone down to Mexico" with "never to be seen again."