SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – Charles “Chase” Merritt was found guilty of first-degree murder on Monday morning.
This comes over 9 years after the Fallbrook, California family of four was reported missing. Joseph McStay, 40, Summer McStay, 43, and their sons Gianni, 4, and Joseph Jr., 3, were reported missing by Joseph’s brother, on February 13, 2010. A search for the family by authorities was not immediately suspected to be anything more than a family just leaving, which many times authorities reminded was perfectly legal.
Joseph owned Earth Inspired Products, a decorative fountain company and Charles “Chase” Merritt was his friend and business partner. Prosecutors stated the motive as greed, and “erasing” a debt of Merritt owed to the business. In addition, evidence of money stolen from the McStay’s bank account was presented in court.
On November 11, 2013, a motorcyclist located two shallow graves with human remains in a desert area in Victorville. The remains were determined to be those of the missing McStay family. The family of the McStay’s were convinced Merritt was behind the killing of the entire family, who all died as a result of blunt force trauma. Merritt was arrested in 2014 and pleaded not guilty. A jury trial began on January 7, 2019, and the jury reached a verdict on Friday, June 7, 2019. On Monday, June 10, 2019, just after 10:00 a.m., the jury read the verdict, finding Charles “Chase” Merritt guilty of first-degree murder.
“After 85 days of trial and 6 days of deliberation, a jury has found Charles Ray Merritt guilty of four counts of First-Degree Murder and have found the special circumstances allegation to be true,” San Bernardino County District Attorney’s officials said. “As a result of the guilty verdict, litigation will continue into the penalty phase; therefore, we will have no additional comments at this time.”
Charles “Chase” Merritt is now eligible for the death penalty. Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive moratorium, an end, to the death penalty in the State of California in March 2019. Although someone can be sentenced to death, they will not be executed during the time Governor Newsom is in office.
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