Family Friend Found Guilty Of Murdering Four Members Of The McStay Family, Including 3 & 4 Year Old Babies

mcstays-2
A Southern California man was convicted Monday of murdering a family of four and burying their bodies in the California desert   in a case that puzzled investigators for years after the family suddenly vanished from their home in 2010.dsc_0910
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 in the bludgeoning deaths of his 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 to first-degree murder. Sobs came from the packed courtroom. Someone called out, “Yes!”
Prosecutors say 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 of making and selling custom water fountains.

The jury also found special circumstance of multiple murders, which means Merritt is eligible for the death penalty. Prosecutors have said they would seek the death penalty if Merritt was convicted, and the penalty phase of the trial was scheduled to begin Tuesday.

 

Prosecutors declined to comment after the verdict and families on both sides left without speaking to reporters.

 

After the McStay family disappeared, authorities found bowls of uneaten popcorn at their San Diego County home, which showed no signs of forced entry. Their car was later found parked at a strip mall near the Mexican 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,” the Los Angeles Times reported prosecutor Britt Imes said during closing arguments.

 

Merritt, who worked with McStay in his water features business, was arrested in 2014. Merritt had been working on a book about the McStay family murders when he was taken into custody, CBS News reported at the time.

 

Written By: Tommy Lightfoot Garrett
Photographs are Courtesy: AP
Follow us on Twitter @HighlightHwd or @LightfootinHwd