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Suspect Arrested In McStay Family Homicide

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

UPDATE: 3:36 p.m.: Suspect In Killing Of Fallbrook Family Appears In Court

A man accused of killing a Fallbrook couple and their two young children and burying their bodies in shallow graves in the Mojave Desert made his initial appearance Friday afternoon in a San Bernardino County courtroom, according to City News Service.

Arraignment was rescheduled to Wednesday for Charles "Chase" Merritt, 57, who is charged in the deaths of Joseph McStay, 40, his wife, Summer, 43, and their sons, Gianni, 4, and Joseph Jr., 3.


Merritt, a Riverside County resident who had been Joseph McStay's business partner in a decorative-fountain business, was arrested two days ago in Victorville.

Investigators believe he acted alone in killing the victims, who died of blunt-force trauma in their home, San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon told reporters.

"Although we can never bring them back, I hope that on some level this brings (the victims' survivors) closure," the sheriff said.

UPDATE: 9:30 a.m.: Suspect Arrested In Homicide Of Fallbrook Family

Charles "Chase" Merritt, 57, was arrested Wednesday, authorities said Friday morning. Merritt was a former business associate of Joseph McStay.


The bodies of Joseph McStay, his wife, Summer, and their two sons, 4-year-old Gianni and 3-year-old Joseph Jr., were found in shallow graves in the Mojave Desert nearly one year ago, more than three years after they vanished.

The cause of death was determined to be blunt force trauma. Investigators said they believe the homicide occurred inside of the McStay family's home in Fallbrook. A motive for the murders is not being disclosed by investigators.

Investigators said they found evidence at the grave site that linked the homicides to Merritt.

Merritt is scheduled to be arraigned at 1:30 p.m. Friday at the Victorville courthouse. San Bernardino District Attorney Michael Ramos said four counts of murder have been filed. If convicted, Merritt would be eligible for the death penalty, Ramos said.

"This is a cold and callous murder of an entire family," Ramos said.

Michael McStay, the brother of Joseph McStay, spoke at the press conference.

"Joseph was a great brother, a great father. He would have done anything to protect those boys and Summer," Michael McStay said. "He tried to help Chase and provide work for this guy."

Investigators said that they now do not believe the surveillance video that appeared to be the McStay family crossing into Mexico is related to the case.

Original post:

The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department will release new details Friday on the investigation into a Fallbrook family of four whose bodies were found in the Mojave Desert nearly one year ago, more than three years after they vanished.

The last confirmed sighting of 40-year-old Joseph McStay, his 43-year-old wife Summer and their two sons, 4-year-old Gianni and 3-year-old Joseph Jr., was Feb. 4, 2010.

On Nov. 11, 2013, a motorcyclist in the Mojave Desert near Victorville stumbled onto two shallow graves that contained four skeletons. Using dental records and DNA testing, authorities identified them as the missing McStay family. They concluded that all four were homicide victims.

Investigators found the family's two dogs at the house, and nothing inside suggested the couple and their children had gone on a vacation or other routine trip. A carton of eggs was left on a kitchen counter, according to sheriff's officials. There were no signs of struggle and no signs the couple had financial problems.

Days after disappearing, the family's white Isuzu Trooper turned up near the U.S.-Mexico border crossing in San Ysidro. When investigators checked surveillance video, they saw dark images of what appeared to be the family walking across the border into Baja California on Feb. 8, 2010.

Joseph McStay owned a decorative-fountain company. Authorities have said they had no solid theory on who may have killed the family.

The news conference is scheduled for 9 a.m. Friday at the sheriff’s department headquarters in San Bernardino. Watch it in the video above.