Thursday is day 22 in the McStay family murder trial. Charles Ray Merritt, 61, stands trial for the murder of a couple and their two sons in San Bernardino, California. Prosecutors claim he killed business partner Joseph McStay, McStay’s 43-year-old wife Summer, and the couple’s sons–4 year-old Gianni and 3-year-old Joseph Jr. The defendant faces the possibility of the death penalty if convicted.
Investigators treated the matter as a missing persons case, after the McStays disappeared in 2010. Joseph Sr.’s brother reportedly crawled through an open window into their home to find the family but instead discovered that they weren’t there and their dogs had been neglected. Relatives reported the couple and their sons missing soon after.
In November 2013, their bodies were discovered by a motorcycle rider in the desert. Authorities identified them as the McStays.
The #McStayFamily‘s bodies were found 3 1/2 years after the family went missing. All 4 family members, including, 4 yr Gianni & 3 yr old Joseph, Jr., were bludgeoned to death. A 3 lb sledgehammer was buried with the family. Each parent buried with a child in 2 shallow graves. pic.twitter.com/DVlSaOqZC7
— Cathy Russon (@cathyrusson) January 7, 2019
The victims were killed with a sledgehammer, prosecutor Sean Daugherty told jurors during opening statements.
Summer McStay may have been raped before her death because her pants were found by her head in the grave, and her bra had been cut off, authorities suggested.
Defense attorneys say Merritt is innocent. “They predetermined he was the guy and they didn’t look at anything else,” said defense attorney James McGee during opening statements.
Merritt tried in January 2015 to represent himself in court, and claimed he had months to live because of congestive heart failure. He’s still alive, four years later.
Watch the live stream of the trial in the player above.