Verdict reached in McStay family murder trial

Verdict reached in McStay family murder trial”

Now, a jury has reached a verdict in the murder case against 62-year-old Charles "Chase" Merritt, who authorities said killed the family with a sledgehammer after his business associate Joseph McStay tried to cut him out of a business making and selling custom water fountains.

McStay, 40, his 43-year-old wife, Summer, and their two sons, four-year-old Gianni and three-year-old Joseph Jr., were reported missing in February 2010 from their home in the San Diego community of Fallbrook.

The family's mysterious 2010 disappearance baffled investigators for years after the family seemingly vanished, leaving uneaten bowls of popcorn behind and no signs of forced entry to their home, the Associated Press reports.

Their skeletal remains were unearthed in 2013 from shallow graves near Victorville, northeast of Los Angeles.

Prosecutors to make case in the death of McStay family bured in desert. He could face the death penalty when he is sentenced.

The family's vehicle was discovered at a strip mall near the Mexican border.

The jury also found special circumstance of multiple murders, which means Merritt is eligible for the death penalty.

Merritt said he and Joseph McStay were business associates who became friends.

McStay was found with a shattered skull, while his wife sustained a blow to the jaw and the two children had skull fractures.

Merritt, who worked with Mr McStay in his water features business, was arrested in 2014.

Deputy District Attorney Britt Imes highlighted evidence he said pointed to Merritt: cellphone data, questionable activity in McStay's business account, gaps when Merritt was "off the grid" for hours on key dates, his DNA on McStay's steering wheel.

The McStay family went missing in 2010.

"I am definitely the last person he saw", Merritt said.

Merritt's lawyers said the two men were best friends and investigators overlooked another possible suspect in the killings.

Merritt's attorneys said authorities zeroed in on an innocent man but the evidence doesn't add up.

The family's two beloved dogs, Bear and Digger, were left behind in the backyard, and almost $100,000 remained untouched in Joseph's bank accounts (he ran a successful decorative-fountain business). Prosecutors acknowledged that details aren't entirely clear but say the evidence from the family's auto, cellphone towers and financial accounts link Merritt to the killings. They also said Merritt referred to McStay in the past tense in an interview with investigators after the family vanished.

Prosecutors argued Merritt's motive was greed and that he owed McStay money.

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