The fate of the McStay family remained a mystery for nearly five years. In February 2010, Joseph, 40, Summer, 43, Gianni, 4, and Joseph Mateo, 3, vanished without a trace. More than four years later, Charles “Chase” Merritt was arrested and charged with four counts of murder. California authorities confirmed Charles Merritt and Joseph McStay were business partners.
The McStay family was reported missing on February 15, 2010. Although there were no signs of a struggle, it was clear that something was terribly wrong.
The scene inside the family’s Avocado Vista Lane home suggested they vanished into thin air. On the kitchen counter, authorities found a carton of unused eggs. They also discovered two uneaten bowls of popcorn sitting on the living room couch. The McStay family’s beloved dogs were in the backyard — without any food or water.
Local authorities were joined by state, national, and international law enforcement agencies in their hunt for information about the family’s mysterious disappearance. Unfortunately, their fate remained a mystery for nearly five years.
As reported by NBC News, the lack of evidence led to numerous theories. Some believed the family planned their own disappearance. This theory was quite popular, as the McStay family’s vehicle was found abandoned near the boarder. Additionally, surveillance footage provided by the boarder patrol shows a family of four crossing into Mexico on foot.
Although the theory was plausible, the McStays friends and family were not convinced. Most concerning was the fact that the family’s bank accounts and credit cards were not used immediately before, or at any time following, their disappearance.
In 2013, the San Diego Sheriff’s department determined that the family seen crossing the boarder was indeed the McStays. They further determined that the family left the country voluntarily and did not want to be found.
Six months later, a motorcycle rider discovered the remains of four people in the northern Victorville Desert. California authorities later confirmed that the remains belonged to Joseph, Summer, Gianni, and Joseph Mateo McStay.
As reported by the Huffington Post, autopsies revealed that the McStay family was killed by blunt force trauma.
Although the details are unclear, authorities believe Charles Merritt killed the family inside their home. He then transported their bodies to the Victorville Desert, where they were found four years later.
Authorities have not discussed what motivated Charles Merritt to kill the McStay family. However, the suspect previously admitted having a business meeting with Joseph on the day he and his family disappeared.
[Image via Lighting Their Way Home]