ON AIR NOW

LISTEN NOW

Weather

cloudy-day
89°
Sunny
H 92° L 78°
  • cloudy-day
    89°
    Current Conditions
    Sunny. H 92° L 78°
  • clear-day
    87°
    Evening
    Sunny. H 92° L 78°
  • cloudy-day
    79°
    Morning
    Partly Cloudy. H 91° L 78°
LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

The latest top stories

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

The latest traffic report

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

The latest forecast

00:00 | 00:00

National
McStay family killings: Business associate convicted of killing couple, two young sons in 2010
Close

McStay family killings: Business associate convicted of killing couple, two young sons in 2010

McStay Family Killings: Business Associate Convicted of Killing Couple, Two Young Children in 2010

McStay family killings: Business associate convicted of killing couple, two young sons in 2010

The 2010 disappearance of Joseph McStay and his family was shrouded in mystery.

McStay, 40, his wife, Summer McStay, 43, and their two sons, Gianni , 4, and 3-year-old Joseph Jr., vanished Feb. 4, 2010, from their home in the San Diego County community of Fallbrook, uneaten bowls of popcorn on the couch, food left to rot on the kitchen counter and their dogs left in the yard of the home they’d just moved into. 

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children
A missing poster shows Gianni McStay, 4, Joseph McStay Jr., 3, Summer McStay, 43, and Joseph McStay, 40, following their February 2010 disappearance. The family's remains were found buried in 2013 in the Mojave Desert about 100 miles from home.
Close

McStay family killings: Business associate convicted of killing couple, two young sons in 2010

Photo Credit: National Center for Missing & Exploited Children
A missing poster shows Gianni McStay, 4, Joseph McStay Jr., 3, Summer McStay, 43, and Joseph McStay, 40, following their February 2010 disappearance. The family's remains were found buried in 2013 in the Mojave Desert about 100 miles from home.

>> Read more trending news

San Diego County officials were puzzled by the disappearances, according to KTLA in Los Angeles. They said at one point that they believed the family had potentially gone voluntarily to Mexico, though they could not say what for. 

The Los Angeles Times said a glance at the family’s computer showed searches, including, “What documents do children need for traveling to Mexico?” The family’s Isuzu Trooper was found in the parking lot of a strip mall in San Ysidro, just across the border from Mexico.  

According to The Washington Post, investigators looked at hours of grainy footage from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection port of entry, at one point finding a family of four -- parents holding the hands of two little boys -- and believed it might have been the McStays. Believing the family was out of the country, county detectives turned the case over to the FBI. 

It wasn’t until 2013 that investigators learned the family never made it to the border. An off-road motorcyclist stumbled upon skeletal remains in the Mojave Desert near Victorville, more than 100 miles north of the McStay home. 

AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu
Workers fill in the shallow graves where the bodies of Joseph McStay, 40, Summer McStay, 43, and their two sons, Gianni McStay, 4, and Joseph McStay Jr., 3, were found in November 2013, more than three years after they vanished from their Fallbrook, Calif., home.
Close

McStay family killings: Business associate convicted of killing couple, two young sons in 2010

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu
Workers fill in the shallow graves where the bodies of Joseph McStay, 40, Summer McStay, 43, and their two sons, Gianni McStay, 4, and Joseph McStay Jr., 3, were found in November 2013, more than three years after they vanished from their Fallbrook, Calif., home.

Joseph McStay’s remains were found in a shallow grave with those of Joey Jr., the Times reported. Summer McStay and Gianni were found in a separate shallow grave, along with a rusty sledgehammer that authorities believe was the murder weapon. 

On Monday, jurors returned a guilty verdict against Charles Ray “Chase” Merritt, the 62-year-old Rancho Cucamonga man investigators said bludgeoned the entire family to death, KTLA reported. Merritt was a welder who helped Joseph McStay build custom water fountains for McStay’s company, according to the Times. 

The McStay killings and subsequent criminal case garnered national attention and was streamed live by the Law & Crime Network. Watch videos of his five-month trial here.

The victims’ remains told a gruesome story. Joseph McStay’s skull was shattered, the Times reported. Summer McStay was hit in the jaw. 

According to the Post, Summer McStay was clad only in a paint-specked bra. The couple had been painting the walls of their new home. 

Both of their sons had skull fractures. Investigators believe the children were killed because they could identify their attacker. 

“It was blow, after blow, after blow to a child’s skull,” prosecutor Britt Imes said during closing arguments, according to KTLA

Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
The young daughter of a family friend plays with a stuffed toy left at the memorial for Joseph McStay, 40, Summer McStay, 43, Gianni McStay, 4, and Joseph McStay Jr., 3, near the spot in the Mojave Desert where the family's remains were found buried in a shallow grave in November 2013. The family had been missing since February 2010.
Close

McStay family killings: Business associate convicted of killing couple, two young sons in 2010

Photo Credit: Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
The young daughter of a family friend plays with a stuffed toy left at the memorial for Joseph McStay, 40, Summer McStay, 43, Gianni McStay, 4, and Joseph McStay Jr., 3, near the spot in the Mojave Desert where the family's remains were found buried in a shallow grave in November 2013. The family had been missing since February 2010.

Motivated by ‘greed and self-interest’

Investigators gave prosecutors a case against Merritt based on circumstantial evidence. 

Joseph McStay had decided to cut Merritt out of his company, Earth Inspired Products, for doing a poor job, the Times reported

The newspaper also reported that several days before the McStay family disappeared, Joseph McStay accused Merritt of owing him more than $42,000 for a botched job. Prosecutors alleged that Merritt then forged checks to himself from McStay’s account and attempted to erase his tracks. 

Merritt consistently referred to Joseph McStay in the past tense when speaking with investigators about the family’s disappearance. He did the same in interviews with CNN, which were played for the jurors.

Merritt also admitted to a CNN reporter that he was the last person to see Joseph McStay alive, the Times reported

In the days after the family vanished, Merritt’s cellphone went dark for hours at a time, prosecutors argued. At one point, the blackout lasted six hours.

“What could the defendant do in six hours?” San Bernardino County Deputy District Attorney Britt Imes said during closing arguments. “Clean up a crime scene? Hide evidence? Move evidence?”

Will Lester/The Orange County Register via AP
Murder defendant Charles Ray "Chase" Merritt sits in San Bernardino County court prior to opening statements in in his trial Jan. 7, 2019. Merritt, 62, was convicted Monday, June 10, on first-degree murder charges in the 2010 slayings of Joseph McStay, 40, Summer McStay, 43, and the couple's two sons, Gianni McStay, 4, and Joseph McStay Jr. 3. The family's remains were found buried in shallow graves in the Mojave Desert in 2013.
Close

McStay family killings: Business associate convicted of killing couple, two young sons in 2010

Photo Credit: Will Lester/The Orange County Register via AP
Murder defendant Charles Ray "Chase" Merritt sits in San Bernardino County court prior to opening statements in in his trial Jan. 7, 2019. Merritt, 62, was convicted Monday, June 10, on first-degree murder charges in the 2010 slayings of Joseph McStay, 40, Summer McStay, 43, and the couple's two sons, Gianni McStay, 4, and Joseph McStay Jr. 3. The family's remains were found buried in shallow graves in the Mojave Desert in 2013.

Merritt’s cellphone records did show, however, that his phone was in the area of the desert gravesites two days after the family disappeared, the Times reported

A San Bernardino County sheriff’s detective also testified that DNA was found on the gearshift and steering wheel of the McStay family’s Isuzu, and the mixture included Merritt’s genetic profile, the Times reported

Merritt’s defense attorneys argued that their client was convicted solely on motive. Showing jurors photos of the McStay home, attorney James McGee pointed out the clutter and trash strewn about but said there were no signs of blood or violence, despite prosecutors’ claims that the attack began inside the home and the killer cleaned up the scene. 

“The idea that this was done here is just ridiculous,” McGee said, according to the Times. “What evidence did they show you that it was cleaned up?”

He said prosecutors could not admit they made a mistake when they charged Merritt. 

“This case is brought forward not on evidence, but on egos and pride,” McGee said

Watch prosecutors’ opening statement in Merritt’s trial below. 

Watch defense attorneys opening statements below. 

McGee and co-counsel Rajan Maline pointed to another of McStay’s business associates, who they claim stole money from McStay’s accounts after the family’s disappearance, the Times said. Prosecutors argued that the unidentified associate had gone to Hawaii at the time, but defense lawyers said no boarding pass or ticket could verify that claim. 

“Their whole case is motive. They’ve spun a lot of tales to you,” Maline told the jury during closing arguments. “They’ve given you half-truths.”

The Times said Merritt sat staring straight ahead, his hands clasped together as he awaited the verdict. When the court clerk pronounced him guilty of four counts of first-degree murder, he closed his eyes for a moment, then dropped his head. 

Members of the McStay family wept, the newspaper said. 

Jennifer Cappuccio Maher/The Orange County Register via AP
Joseph McStay's mother, Susan Blake, center with cane, and other McStay family members leave the San Bernardino courthouse Monday, June 10, 2019, after Charles Ray "Chase" Merritt was convicted of four counts of first-degree murder in the 2010 deaths of Joseph McStay, 40, Summer McStay, 43, and their two sons, Gianni McStay, 4, and Joseph McStay Jr., 3. The family's remains were found buried in 2013 in the Mojave Desert about 100 miles from home.
Close

McStay family killings: Business associate convicted of killing couple, two young sons in 2010

Photo Credit: Jennifer Cappuccio Maher/The Orange County Register via AP
Joseph McStay's mother, Susan Blake, center with cane, and other McStay family members leave the San Bernardino courthouse Monday, June 10, 2019, after Charles Ray "Chase" Merritt was convicted of four counts of first-degree murder in the 2010 deaths of Joseph McStay, 40, Summer McStay, 43, and their two sons, Gianni McStay, 4, and Joseph McStay Jr., 3. The family's remains were found buried in 2013 in the Mojave Desert about 100 miles from home.

The verdict brought to an end nine years of heartache and uncertainty for the family members the McStay’s left behind. 

Joseph McStay’s mother, Susan Blake, turned to a woman leaving the courtroom next to her and smiled. 

“It’s over,” Blake said, according to the Times

Merritt’s uncertainty continues, however. 

Jurors on Tuesday began hearing testimony through which they will determine Merritt’s punishment -- life in prison or death. Jurors found his crimes included “special circumstances” because more than one person was killed, making him eligible for the death penalty. 

Read More

The Latest News Headlines

  • An Ohio school bus driver is facing charges of OVI and child endangering after she crashed the bus into a road sign Wednesday morning with students aboard.  >> Read more trending news  The Preble Shawnee Local Schools bus driver, identified as 44-year-old Amy L. Jones of Gratis Township, likely was impaired when the bus struck the sign on Camden Road west of U.S. 127, Sheriff Mike Simpson said in a media release. No children or staff were hurt. Jones was cited for OVI and child endangering and is scheduled to appear Aug. 26 in Preble County Municipal Court.  Students on the bus said they noticed things were not right with their driver from the start. “It didn’t feel like her normal self this morning,” senior Bethany Goodwin said. “She was really slurring her words,” student Hayden Schaffer said. They said it got worse as the drive went on. “She was, like, all over the road,” Schaffer said. “It seemed like she was kind of swerving in and out a little bit,” Goodwin said. At 7 a.m., Crystal Bissantz got a call from her daughter no parent wants, saying, 'Mom! ... We’ve been in a wreck.' The bus hit a sign on Camden Road, which students said shattered a mirror and door on the bus. No one was hurt, but students said they were scared. “I was shaking and nervous and my heart was racing,” Goodwin said. Following the crash, the driver took the students back to school. That’s where school leaders and deputies became concerned. Cruiser camera footage shows Jones wobbling as she took a field sobriety test in what appears to be a bus storage barn. Alcohol was ruled out as a factor in the crash, but investigators suspect she was under the influence of something else, Simpson said. Bissantz said she is relieved her daughter is safe, but has many questions, such as why it took hours to give her any information.  “The communications needs to be better,” she said. The district activated its call system mid-afternoon to alert parents, which stated: “The bus sustained minor damage and was operable.” As for students, hearing their driver may have been under the influence is not too surprising. “I mean, I believe it,” Schaffer said. But some students say they can no longer trust that school officials and staff will keep them safe. “I feel scared now to ride the bus at school,” Goodwin said. “It was just lucky that we were all OK ... and we made it through.” Jones is on administrative leave pending the investigation, district Superintendent Matt Bishop said in a statement.  “The safety of our students and staff is our number one goal. The district will take whatever action is necessary to uphold that goal,” Bishop said. 
  • Expect another mainly dry day in NE Florida as temperatures rise into the low 90’s.  Feels-like temps will climb to near 100 and most of the rain will be inland and in SE Georgia.  The hot and mainly dry weather continues on Friday with afternoon temps in the low 90’s. The average high is 91.  The weekend appears to be a little unsettled with a threat for scattered rain and thunderstorms both days.  High temps stay in the low 90’s but drop off significantly where it rains.  TROPICS:  Mike Buresh tracks the tropics daily In the tropics, Chantal has weakened to a depression and will stay out to sea in the north/central Atlantic. We are tracking an area of disorganized thunderstorms near The Bahamas that is expected to move closer to the Florida coast over the next few days.  While some development is possible, it is unlikely we will see much rain. The greatest risk will be rough seas. 
  • Police in Florida said a 16-year-old high school student made a shooting threat through a text message from a phone belonging to her sister, who attends a Catholic school, and sent it to a group chat.  >> Read more trending news  According to the Altamonte Springs Police Department, the principal of St. Mary Magdalen Catholic School received information from several parents regarding a group chat with several sixth-graders. One of the parents said the threat was made to the school by the 16-year-old's sister, who attends Lyman High School. According to police, the text message said: 'Next person to say something is the first person I will shoot on the school shooting that will take place this Friday… Kate you're getting shot for fun I can't stand that fish face.' The sister of the student reportedly told officials that around 9 p.m. Tuesday, she was doing homework in her room with her sister. She said there were several messages alerting her phone, which caused her older sister to take the phone, police said. The girl said she was unaware that her sister had typed the message and sent it to the group chat, according to police. The officer working on campus took immediate action to ensure the safety of all students. The 16-year-old was charged with written threats to kill, do bodily harm or conduct a mass shooting, authorities said.
  • The search for Brian McCluney and Justin Walker is shifting to South Carolina as we approach one full week since the men left the space coast for a fishing trip.  “We’re in some critical times right now”, said JFRD Interim Chief Keith Powers.  Since Friday, more than 90,000 square miles of ocean has been searched by the Coast Guard and hundreds of volunteers. While some debris was found on Wednesday, nothing has been linked to the missing men since Monday, when McCluney’s tackle bag was recovered off the coast of St. Augustine.  Their fishing vessel has not been found. Two organizations are offering $20,000 in reward money for any boater or pilot who finds the missing firefighters.  And if you would like to help, Jacksonville Fire and Rescue has set up a fund to support search efforts and ultimately the families of the firefighters. 
  • A Texas man was sentenced to life in prison Friday after a jury convicted him of capital murder in the 2015 drowning death of his girlfriend's toddler nephew. >> Read more trending news  According to KTRE, prosecutors said Bobby Woods Jr., 21, shoved Mason Cuttler, 3, into a pond near the family's Lufkin home and left him to drown. Woods, who was dating the boy's aunt, Billie Jean Cuttler, said he thought she was pregnant when he killed the boy, who lived in the same home as Woods, Cuttler and 'several families,' The Associated Press reported. Woods believed their house was too crowded and wanted to make room for the new baby, he reportedly told police. An attorney later said the woman was not pregnant, the news agency reported. Woods will not be eligible for parole, according to the AP. Cuttler, 23, also initially faced a capital murder charge in the incident, but agreed to a plea deal amid concerns over her intellectual competency, KTRE and the AP reported. She received a 20-year prison sentence after she pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to commit murder, authorities said. Read more here or here. – The Associated Press contributed to this report.

The Latest News Videos