SAN BERNARDINO, California. – The disappearance of a couple and their two children stunned California investigators for years.
The McStay family suddenly disappeared in 2010, and in their home bowls of popcorn left no traces an attacker crowded in. Three years later, her bodies were found in shallow desert graves more than 161 kilometers away.
Now a jury has a judgment in the murder case against 62-year-old Charles "Chase" Merritt pleases authorities claim to have killed the family with a sledgehammer after his business partner Joseph McStay had tried to cut him out of a business custom Produces and sells water fountains.
The jury's decision was made on Friday after about a week of consideration and is read in court Monday in San Bernardino.
Although there are still many questions about the murders, prosecutors argued that family car accounts, financial accounts and cell phone towers Merritt were linked to the death of McStay, McStay's wife Summer, and the 3 and 4-year-old couple brought 4-year-old sons.
Merit's lawyers said the two men were best friends, and the investigators overlooked another potential suspect. They said the evidence was wrong and there was no sign of attack in the family home.
After the McStays disappeared from their home in San Diego County, the investigators could not immediately determine what had happened. Her car was found parked in a mall near the Mexican border, and investigators said the family had traveled to Mexico.
In 2013, the family's bodies were found in shallow graves in the San Bernardino district with a rusty sledgehammer after a motorcyclist discovered skeletal remains in the area.
Merritt was arrested in 2014.
Authorities said they traced Mery's cell phone to desert graves in the days after the family's disappearance, and a phone call trying to shut down McStay's online account. They also said Merritt mentioned McStay in the past tense in an investigator interview after the family disappeared.
When Merritt is convicted of the murders, prosecutors have announced that they will apply for the death penalty.