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 four counts of murder.
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 2013, their bodies were discovered by a motorcycle rider in the desert, according to NBC San Diego. 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, according to court documents obtained by The San Bernardino Sun. 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. Details suggest these murders were involved. Gianni sustained seven sledgehammer blows to the head, prosecutors said in 2015.
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.
[Screengrab via CBS San Diego]