UPDATE:  10/24/2015

Joseph McStay had loaned his family’s accused killer $30,000 and was planning on firing him before according to prosecutors, Charles “Chase” Merritt killed Joseph, his wife, Summer, and their two children in 2010.  The family’s house was described as being left hastily.  There was popcorn and eggs left out and none of their personal belongings were missing.  Police found no evidence of foul play at the home.  Joseph’s brother, Mike, climbed through an open window when he hadn’t heard from the family and found that their dogs were unfed and they were gone.

A surveillance video from a neighbor’s home shows the family’s car leaving the home in the middle of the night, but no one inside can be seen.

The family’s car was found near the border and on the family’s computers someone had been searching for what documents were needed to travel to Mexico.  Initially, investigators and the public leaned toward the family going to Mexico because of a border video that showed a similar looking family, but that lead was quickly abandoned.  There was a lot of speculation as the case went cold and amateur sleuths picked apart the case despite a lack of clues.

In the book, No Goodbyes:  The Mysterious Disappearance of the McStay Family, radio host Rick Baker said he conducted dozens of interviews and followed possible sightings of the family around the world.  He was extremely critical of Summer McStay and theorized that she murdered her husband and fled with the children.  He set off mass accusations against Summer McStay.

Michael McStay said, “I don’t know how he sleeps at night. I suspect he’s looking for money. He’s a good manipulator and knows how to twist things. He’s just trying to sell books.”

After the bodies were discovered, he offered a refund of his book to anyone who bought it.

Other theories, included Mexican drug cartels, the current husband of Joseph McStay’s ex-wife, and Summer McStay’s ex-boyfriend, but most of the speculation surrounded around Summer McStay herself.  Over the years of their disappearance, rumors spread that the family was suffering from financial difficulties right beforehand and that Summer had changed her name often.  Some people even said that Summer had attempted to poison her husband beforehand because he had suffered from an unknown illness.

The family said that Summer was eccentric, but would never have harmed her husband.  They also confirmed that Joseph did suffer from an unexplained illness, but that the accusations were unfounded.

Joseph’s father Patrick said, “I truly believe she loved my son.”

Others pointed out that the family had at least $100,000 saved and that their passports were expired.

Vick W. Johansen became a subject of scrutiny because, he demonstrated a stalker-like obsession with Summer even years after their relationship had ended.  He also had a criminal record of threats.

But the police and those who saw through the speculation began to focus on McStay’s business partner.  Chase Merritt gave many interviews after the family’s disappearance.  Merritt was the last person to be in contact with the McStays and the first person to notice their disappearance.  Merritt has a felony criminal record for burglary.  His most recent conviction was in 2001 for the theft of $32,000 in welding equipment from the San Gabriel Valley Ornamental Iron Works in Monrovia, California.  These convictions are also possibly associated with a long standing gambling problem.

Joseph McStay’s father said at the time that he did not believe that Chase was involved.

Merritt has pled not guilty.  He was a former business partner of Joseph McStay, who sold outdoor water displays over the Internet. The newly released documents show that investigators spoke with Dan Kavanaugh, another partner and he told them about the loan.  Merritt had incurred a sizable gambling debt.

Investigators spoke with Merritt several times and during those meetings, he admitted to not liking Summer McStay or his other business partner, Kavanaugh, “If I were ever going to commit murder, it would be him.” Merritt had an injury to his hand, which he said was caused by sheet metal. Merritt also denied ever being in the McStay family’s vehicle, but his DNA was located on the steering wheel and gear shifter.

The family’s skeletal remains were located in shallow graves in November of 2013 by a passing motorcyclist. Joseph, Summer and their sons Gianni, 4, and Joseph Jr., 3, were bludgeoned to death with a sledgehammer and buried outside of Victorville, CA northeast of Los Angeles in the desert.

The documents also stated that Merritt had a sister that lived near there.

In an interview with the media before his arrest, Merritt said, “I am definitely the last person (Joseph McStay) saw.”

The trial is scheduled to begin August 10, 2015.


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