Joseph and Summer McStay were also apparently being chased by debt collection agents, the IRS and lawyers representing business clients they owed money to. Mystery: Joseph McStay, his wife Summer and children Gianni and Joseph Jr vanished in from their suburban Californian home with little clue as to where they had gone.
The reason for their sudden, unexplained disappearance has gripped America for almost four years, leaving law enforcement and amateur sleuths alike completely baffled. Even the discovery of the bodies of parents Joseph and Summer and their two children Gianni and Joey Jr near a highway in Victorville, California last week has not stopped the wild speculation.
Some have suggested the family of four were killed by a Mexican cartel because of a business deal that went bad. For years it was believed they had fled to Mexico after CCTV footage was discovered apparently showing them crossing the border on foot, four days after they went missing. Now MailOnline has been given new information suggesting Joseph and Summer were barely able to keep up with payments for a modest rent on a small two bedroom apartment in San Clemente, California.
They lived in the property for around five years until just three or four months before their disappearance. Their landlord was apparently desperate to throw them out because they were constantly behind with the payments. Bodies: The McStay family bodies were found in a hole, pictured, in the Mojave desert in Victorville. Years ago, the McStay children were naturally birthed in an inflatable pool in White's current living room. Joseph's fountain making company Earth Inspired Products was their main source of income.
The man who took over the rent at their old place is former US marine Dave White. He lived on the same street before moving into their old place and knew the family. Mr White, 54, who now drives school buses said: 'I knew the landlord on the place before I moved in as I used to be handyman and I did some odd jobs around the place for him.
That was three years ago. Saddened: Michael McStay, brother of Joseph McStay, breaks down at a press conference Friday after his sibling's remains were confirmed as being found in the Mojave desert. Problems: Mr and Mrs McStay were on the verge of being evicted from their San Clemente apartment, it has been claimed.
I kept getting letters from attorney's representing a doctor's surgery outside of California. I guess a lot of these people didn't realize they'd gone missing. And it seems the McStay's apparent inability to pay their rent was not the first time they had run into financial difficulty.
Then in Joseph, his older brother Michael and sister Heather had a legal dispute with a company In San Francisco. They disappeared from home in Februaryleaving unfinished popcorn and their family pets behind. The McStay family home was found with food on the counter and the pet dogs abandoned when police went to investigate in Are they alive? When they vanished along with their parents, Gianni was four left and Joseph Jr was three.
The bankruptcy was discharged around three months later. Joseph's business dealings have come under scrutiny in the past in relation to his disappearance. The former metal worker and welder was Joseph's business partner and he was one of the first people to notice the family were missing. Department of Corrections records show Merritt served time in prison for a burglary conviction in He was then sent back to prison in for receiving stolen property, according to State records.
She asked not to be identified. Joseph's financial history certainly raises questions, but fails to provide any real answers as to why they disappeared without trace almost four years ago. Summer, 43, was at home with Gianni, 4; Joey Jr.
Graves: An inmate work crew from the Adelanto Detention Center fills in the graves following a 30 hour excavation that yielded skeletal remains.
Crime scene: A San Bernardino County Sheriff deputy puts up crime scene tape on Quarry Road in the desert north of Victorville after the family's remains were found.Merritt is on trial for the murder of the McStay family from Fallbrook back in But the defense said authorities are charging the wrong man and the real culprit is another business partner.
The family's disappearance perplexed investigators for years, with no signs of forced entry at their San Diego County home. Three years later, their bodies were found more than miles kilometers away in a remote area of San Bernardino County, along with a 3-pound 1.
Merritt made custom fountains for McStay's online water feature business and prosecutors and sheriff's investigators have said he was in debt and had a gambling problem, the Sun reported. Merritt "desperately tried to cover his tracks after the murders. Authorities said that after the family disappeared, Merritt's cellphone was traced to the area near the gravesites and to a call seeking to close out McStay's QuickBooks account for his water features business.
But Maline argued that two other phone calls that placed Merritt away from the burial site weren't considered. Merritt's attorneys say McStay could have transferred the DNA to the vehicle after he met with Merritt shortly before the family vanished.
The McStay family disappeared from their home in Fallbrook, which is about 50 miles 80 kilometers north of San Diego. Daugherty said three victims died of blunt-force trauma to the head and there were not enough remains of one of the boys to determine how he was killed, the newspaper reported. Investigators spoke with Merritt shortly after the family went missing and noticed Merritt referred to them in the past tense, Daugherty said.Nearly a decade later, so much remains unknown about the murders of Joseph and Summer McStay and their two young boys.
They vanished from their Fallbrook home in and, more than three years later, their bodies were found buried in shallow graves in the Mojave Desert. But without a bloody crime scene, exactly when they died — and where — remains a mystery.
The panel found Merritt guilty of four counts of first-degree murder, reaching their verdict on Friday morning after about a week of deliberating. Their verdict forms were sealed through the weekend and read publicly by a clerk in a packed San Bernardino courtroom on Monday morning. Merritt, 62, sat at the defense table, staring ahead with his hands clasped together in front of him.
When the clerk announced the outcome, he closed his eyes and inhaled slightly. He held his posture for several seconds, then dropped his head.
Members of the McStay family wept, one wiping her eyes with a tissue. It was an emotional end to more than nine years of tragedy in a case that drew national attention, serving as the subject of documentaries and a book.
Proceedings are set to continue this week. The jury found Merritt responsible for multiple murders, making him eligible for the death penalty. Jurors will begin hearing testimony on Tuesday to decide his punishment.
Prosecutors declined to comment after the verdict, saying the trial was ongoing. Defense attorneys could not be reached. The home showed signs of a swift departure: uneaten bowls of popcorn on the futon, vegetables left out to rot. There were no signs of a struggle or forced entry. An off-road motorcyclist stumbled upon parts of a skull in the desert off Interstate 15 in Victorville. Investigators unearthed two shallow graves.
The second had the remains of Summer McStay, 43, and Gianni, 4, along with a rusty sledgehammer. Both boys, killed presumably because they could have identified the attacker, had skull fractures. Prosecutors said Merritt, of Rancho Cucamonga, was motivated by greed and self-interest in a case they acknowledged was built on circumstantial evidence. When speaking with detectives, Merritt referred to McStay in the past tense. In one, a reporter asks Merritt if he was the last person to see Joseph McStay.
They declined to be interviewed. Twitter: AleneTchek.Exclusive Video inside the Missing McStay Family home. Part 1
Get up to speed with our Essential California newsletter, sent six days a week. Hot Property.Last June, a jury found Merritt guilty of murdering the McStay couple and their two young sons. Merritt was a business associate of the father, year-old Joseph McStay. In an emotional statement delivered after his sentencing, Merritt continued to maintain his innocence, lashing out at prosecutors and witnesses he said framed him and the judge he claimed allowed it to happen.
I would never have hurt him in any way.
I would have never raised my hand for a woman or child. I did not do this thing. The family of four vanished suddenly in February from the Fallbrook home, with bowls of popcorn left uneaten in their house and no sign an attacker forced their way inside. In Novembertheir bodies were found by an off-road motorcyclist about miles away, in shallow desert graves in a desert area just north of Victorville in San Bernardino County.
Along with the bodies was a rusty sledgehammer. Merritt was arrested in November of An undated photo of the McStay family. Authorities say Merritt killed the family with a sledgehammer after Joseph McStay tried to cut him out of a business making and selling custom water fountains. Officials said Gianni suffered at least seven blows in the incident.
Their car was found parked at a strip mall near the Mexican border, and at one point, investigators said they believed the family had gone to Mexico. They also said Merritt referred to McStay in the past tense in an interview with investigators after the family vanished.Help end the pursuit. If you have any information on a case featured on the show, please call PURSUE or fill out our online form now. Reasonable Doubt.
Business associate found guilty of killing McStay family
Full episode. Twisted Sisters. Sign In. Tracy Fortson was the first female deputy sheriff of Oglethorpe County, Georgia. Her life came crashing down when she was convicted of her boyfriend's murder. But her family believes she was framed and want Chris and Fatima to help prove it. In Las Vegas, a father of four is found dead in his car. He's been bound, gagged, and asphyxiated. Witnesses lead detectives to a local man named John Brian Ray. But this troubled man is just a pawn in the larger game of a criminal mastermind.
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Christina Woods' Final Car Ride. Raw Terror: Life After Murder. Into Valerie Tieman's Woods. When Valerie Tieman goes missing her parents Allen and Sarajean begin to worry. Valerie's body is later found buried in the woods behind the home she shares with husband Luc.For nearly a year after Joseph McStay went missing inhis mother sent him emails regularly.
She traveled to Mexico, where detectives thought he might have gone with his wife, Summer, and two young boys, Joey Jr. She took out ads in local newspapers, pleading in Spanish for readers to help find her family. More than three years later, their bodies were found buried in two shallow graves in the Mojave Desert, far from their Fallbrook home. She delivered her wrenching testimony to jurors who will decide on the penalty for the man they convicted of bludgeoning the family of four to death and burying their bodies.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. During the guilt phase of the trial, they argued that Merritt owed McStay thousands of dollars and was motivated by greed when he attacked the family. Defense attorneys maintain that Merritt is innocent and said they did not plan to call any witnesses to offer mitigating testimony. The defense plans to advise jurors that they can consider any lingering doubt they have about who committed the crime when deciding on a punishment.
Melissa Rodriguez showed jurors a McStay family video of the sun setting above the ocean, silhouettes of palm trees in the sky. He pans over to a nearby park, where Summer McStay is pushing the boys on swings. As he told the story to jurors, he laughed.
A joke. The prosecutor flashed other family photos on several screens inside the courtroom: The boys in matching pajamas and Santa hats at Christmastime. Stockings hanging on the mantle of their new home in Fallbrook. Gianni holding his new puppy, Digger. She said she was in her office in Valencia when Michael called to give her the news. Both boys, who prosecutors say were killed because they could have identified the attacker, had skull fractures.
Soon after, the judge called for a minute break. One juror wiped her eyes as she walked out of the courtroom. Twitter: AleneTchek. Get up to speed with our Essential California newsletter, sent six days a week. Hot Property. About Us. Brand Publishing. Times News Platforms. Times Store.
Defense: Other partner killed McStays, buried them in desert
Facebook Twitter Show more sharing options Share Close extra sharing options. June 11, What are you doing? But she never heard from any of them again. He maintains his innocence. Sign Me Up. You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times. Alene Tchekmedyian. Follow Us. More From the Los Angeles Times.CNN A jury recommended the death penalty for the man who killed a California family of four and buried them in the Mojave Desert nine years ago. Chat with us in Facebook Messenger.
Find out what's happening in the world as it unfolds. More Videos Jury reaches verdict for McStay family killing Charles Ray Merritt, 62, was found guilty earlier this month on four first-degree murder charges in the deaths of Joseph and Summer McStay and their children Gianni, 4, and Joseph Jr. Jurors recommended life in prison for Merritt with no parole for the murder of Joseph Mc Stay, but they delivered three death penalty recommendations for the murders of his wife and their two children.
Business associate found guilty of killing McStay family. The family went missing in Their bodies were found in a shallow grave in the Mojave Desert inabout miles north of their San Diego home.
They had died of blunt force trauma, according to police. Merritt, a business associate of Joseph's, was arrested in The family's disappearance long puzzled investigators who said there were no signs of struggle at their Fallbrook home. Food had been left out and the dogs were home.