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Associate accused in family’s slaying

The Associated Press

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. — Prosecutors filed murder charges against a business associate of a California man who mysteriously disappeared with his wife and two young sons in 2010 until their bodies were found in desert graves last year, authorities said Friday.

Charles “Chase” Merritt, 57, of Homeland was expected in court later in the day to face four counts of murder in the deaths of Joseph McStay, 40, his wife, Summer, 43, and their sons, 4-year-old Gianni and 3-year-old Joseph.

Investigators believe the family members were killed in their home in the San Diego County community of Fallbrook on Feb. 4, 2010, and were victims of blunt-force trauma, said San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon.

Authorities refused to discuss a motive or any further details of how the family was killed, or evidence found at the home or at the site of the shallow graves.

There was no “smoking gun” that helped solve the case after so many years, San Bernardino County sheriff’s Sgt. Chris Fisher said.

Rather, the agency re-examined 4,500 pages of evidence handed over by authorities in San Diego County, where the probe began, served 60 search warrants and did 200 interviews. Evidence found at the gravesite also helped, Fisher said, declining to elaborate.

“Our job is to look at everyone and eliminate who we could and see where this was going to take us — and it led us to him,” he said of Merritt.

Joseph McStay designed and installed home water features. Investigators said he had asked Merritt, who owned a waterfall company, to design some special waterfalls, and the two met at a restaurant on the day the family is believed to have been killed.


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