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Thread: McStay Family Murderer Found Guilty

  1. #1
    Elite Member greysfang's Avatar
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    Default McStay Family Murderer Found Guilty

    Man Found Guilty of Murder in Death of McStay Family, 6 Years After Bodies Were Found in Victorville

    POSTED 6:42 AM, JUNE 10, 2019, BY ASSOCIATED PRESS AND STEVE KUZJ, UPDATED AT 05:52PM, JUNE 10, 2019



    A Southern California man was convicted Monday of bludgeoning a couple and their two little boys to death, then burying their bodies in a remote desert area where the crime remained hidden until an off-roader stumbled across skeletal remains.

    After a trial that spanned more than four months and depended largely on circumstantial evidence, jurors in San Bernardino found 62-year-old Charles "Chase" Merritt guilty of the first-degree murders of business associate Joseph McStay, McStay's wife, Summer, and the couple's 3- and 4-year-old sons.

    Merritt closed his eyes and looked down when the court clerk said the word "guilty" the first of four times. Sobs came from the packed courtroom. Someone called out, "Yes!"

    Prosecutors said Merritt killed the family with a sledgehammer at a time when he owed McStay money and was being cut out of the victim's business making and selling custom water fountains.

    The jury also found the special circumstance of multiple murders.

    The judge scheduled the penalty phase to begin Tuesday. Prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty.

    Prosecutors declined to comment after the verdict, and families on both sides left without speaking to reporters.
    The McStay family vanished in 2010.

    Authorities found bowls of uneaten popcorn at their San Diego County home, which had no signs of forced entry, and their car parked at a strip mall near the Mexico border.

    For years, officials couldn't determine what happened to the McStays. At one point, investigators said they believed the family had gone to Mexico voluntarily, though they couldn't say why.

    In 2013, their bodies were found in shallow graves in the desert after an off-road motorcyclist discovered skeletal remains in the area. Authorities also unearthed a rusty sledgehammer that they said was used to kill the family.

    "It was blow, after blow, after blow to a child's skull," prosecutor Britt Imes said during closing arguments.
    Merritt, who worked with McStay in his water features business, was arrested in 2014.

    Authorities said they traced Merritt's cellphone to the area of the desert gravesites in the days after the family disappeared and to a call seeking to close McStay's online bookkeeping account.

    Merritt referred to McStay in the past tense in an interview with investigators after the family vanished, and while the evidence linking him to the killings is largely circumstantial, it is "overwhelmingly convincing," Imes said.

    Merritt's attorneys said the two men were best friends and investigators overlooked another possible suspect in the killings. Instead, they said, authorities zeroed in on an innocent man, but the evidence didn't add up, noting there were no signs of an attack inside the family's home.

    "They tried his character and not the facts of this case," defense attorney James McGee told jurors.

    Many questions still remain about the family's disappearance. Prosecutors acknowledge details of the killings aren't entirely clear but say the evidence from the family's car, cellphone towers and financial accounts link Merritt to the killings.

    Authorities said McStay was cutting Merritt out of the business in early February and the two met on Feb. 4 in Rancho Cucamonga, where Merritt lived at the time.

    Prosecutors say financial records show Merritt tried to loot the business bank accounts just before and after the family disappeared and backdated checks to Feb. 4, knowing it was the last day anyone had contact with McStay.

    Phone records show McStay called Merritt seven times after the Feb. 4 meeting, with defense lawyers arguing that McStay wouldn't likely do that if he had just fired Merritt.


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  2. #2
    Elite Member KrisNine's Avatar
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    This case is just awful. This guy definitely looks guilty, but I am bothered about the lack of evidence in the home. I thought the prosecutor made mention that they were killed in the home. It’s seems like there would be a lot of forensic evidence if a family of four were beat to death with a sledgehammer.

    It it also makes sense that he would have killed the kids, since they could have identified him.
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    Elite Member MohandasKGanja's Avatar
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    I can't tell if the prosecutors thought the location of the murders was the home all the way through the trial. It seems more likely (to me) that he took them from the home in a hostage situation. Then, took them to some isolated location (hotel? abandoned building?) where he beat and killed them.

    I'm guessing then that he drove their bodies North to another isolated area (Victorville, CA) and buried them. Then, drove their car way down south to San Ysrido and abandoned it, but left his DNA behind.

    The bodies showed signs of torture. Merritt May have been trying to get financial information from McStay so he could get into his accounts? Which he did after the murders.

    Merritt's speculation on what happened to the McStays - that it somehow had something to do with the wife (had been poisoning her husband) is absurd when you take into account that she was murdered, too, and they died of bludgeoning, not poisoning.

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    Elite Member C_is_for_Cookie's Avatar
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    I remember their Disappeared episode, it was so awful but they were at least found which doesn't happen to the majority of the subjects of that show.
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    Elite Member Nevan's Avatar
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    I agree with Mo. It makes sense that they were ushered out of the home with a gun on them. I don't believe they were killed in the home.
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    Elite Member KrisNine's Avatar
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    I had never heard the part about the murders taking place in the home until a few days ago. It was during a news package on the local nbc affiliate here. They said that the prosecution believes the family was killed in the home. Who knows, reporters and anchors are notorious for getting things wrong. It just seems like there’s no way. That kind of murder leaves a lot of evidence behind.
    C_is_for_Cookie likes this.

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    Elite Member MohandasKGanja's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KrisNine View Post
    I had never heard the part about the murders taking place in the home until a few days ago. It was during a news package on the local nbc affiliate here. They said that the prosecution believes the family was killed in the home. Who knows, reporters and anchors are notorious for getting things wrong. It just seems like there’s no way. That kind of murder leaves a lot of evidence behind.
    Luminol would light up the room like the Milky Way. Blood spatter would have been everywhere and there would have been no way for him to clean it up. Also, I think the brother of the Joseph McStay literally crawled into the house through a window the next day. I bet he would have smelled cleaning solution, etc. No time to paint over stuff, like a lot of murderers do.

    I think it is very telling that Joseph McStay's father did not (and didn't want to) believe that Merritt had anything to do with the crime -- until he was charged. Based on that, and the closeness of Joseph McStay to his father, I wonder if the tension between Merritt and McStay over business stuff has been overstated. McState might have had no idea how worked up Merritt was getting over his financial situation and what he was willing to do to make the problem go away. But I still can't figure out how he could get all four of them away from the house without some implied threat to one of the kids. The evidence supposedly indicated that everyone left suddenly.
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    Elite Member Nevan's Avatar
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    Really interesting case.
    "No. I love my grudges. I tend to them like little pets." -Madeline Martha Mackenzie

    Spirituality is not religion. Religion divides people. Belief in something unites them.

    Don't tell me not to worry ... worrying is what I do best!


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