Jury Recommends Death for Convicted Murderer Charles “Chase” Merritt

Jury Recommends Death for Convicted Murderer Charles “Chase” Merritt

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SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – Over nine years after the McStay family went missing, and over 5 years after their bodies were located in a shallow grave in the desert a verdict was reached.

The jury reached a verdict for the murder case against Charles “Chase” Merritt on Friday, June 7, 2019, but, the verdict would not be read until Monday, June 10, 2019. The community in both the Fallbrook area, where the McStays lived and the Victorville area, where they were buried, were eager to learn the outcome. On Monday, June 10, 2019, the verdict of guilty on all charges was read.

The McStay family was a family like most others with father, Joseph McStay, a business owner, Summer McStay, a licensed Real Estate agent, and their two boys, Gianni, 4, and Joseph Jr. 3. The family was reported missing by Joseph’s brother on February 13, 2010, when he went to their home and found only their dogs home. The home showed no signs of foul play, in fact; it looked like the family would be returning shortly after leaving, according to court records.


Through investigation, it appears as though the family had been gone since February 4, 2019. On November 11, 2013, a dirt bike rider found the shallow graves with human remains. He immediately called authorities who confirmed the remains were human. The bodies were collected from the area by the Coroner’s office who determined they were the McStay family. The cause of death was determined to be “blunt force trauma”. 


Charles “Chase” Merritt, Joseph McStays business associate was arrested for their murder nearly a year after their remains were found. Investigators determined that the family was bludgeoned to death with a 3-pound sledgehammer, which was buried with their bodies.


On June 24, 2019, the penalty phase was read by jurors at the San Bernardino County Superior Court. The McStay family entered the courtroom just before 4:00 p.m. and sat in the seating reserved for the family. The section reserved for any of Merritt’s family members remained empty throughout the hearing.

The jurors recommended the death penalty for the killing of Summer McStay, Gianni McStay, and Joseph McStay Jr. In addition, they recommended life without the possibility of parole for Joseph McStay, his former business partner.

The formal sentencing for Charles “Chase” Merritt was scheduled for September 27, 2019.

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Staff Writer

This article was written by a staff member of the 24/7 Headline News Organization

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