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By Jeff Pack

Jury selection begins in McStay murder case, opening statements in January


Last updated 11/9/2018 at 9:33am

Joseph and Summer McStay were missing for over three years before their bodies were found, along with those of their sons, in November 2013.

Jury selection began Monday, Oct. 29 in the death-penalty case of Charles "Chase" Merritt, who is charged with killing four members of a Fallbrook family in 2010.

Merritt is accused of killing Joseph McStay, 40, his wife, Summer, 43, and their two children, Gianni, 4, and Joseph Jr., 3, in February of that year, though he was not charged until four years later.

The trial of Merritt, 61, of Homeland, who has pleaded not guilty and remains in jail without bail, is a long time coming for those connected with the case.

Jurors will be questioned starting Dec. 3 and the case will break for the holidays before picking back up for opening statements on Jan. 7 at Superior Court of California, San Bernardino County.

"Not sure what I could add other than I am glad to see the case is finally moving and has started," said Patrick McStay, father of Joseph. "I believe the case is in very competent hands with the San Bernardino District Attorney's Office and Sean Daugherty."

The San Bernardino District Attorney's office had no comment, citing the protection of the rights of the accused as well as their case against Merritt.

Early on, it looked like the case would go in front of a jury very quickly because shortly after Merritt was arrested in 2014, he said through his attorney that he had heart failure and wanted his trial to be fast-tracked.

Since then, there have been a string of delays on both sides of the case.

The family, who lived in the Lake Rancho Viejo housing development east of Interstate 15, was last seen alive on Feb. 4, 2010. Relatives reported them missing a few days later.

The San Diego County Sheriff's Dept. and the FBI handled the investigation into the family's disappearance in the early years with no resolution.

In November of 2013, the skeletal remains of the four family members were discovered in shallow graves by a motorcyclist. Records show that all four were beaten to death, most likely with the use of a sledgehammer.

At that point, the investigation was taken over by the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department.

Investigators contend that Merritt, who designed and built custom fountains for McStay's business, Earth Inspired Products, was in debt ($30,000) to Joseph McStay in regards to a gambling matter.

Cell phone records in the possession of authorities reportedly indicate activity on Merritt's phone in the area surrounding the gravesites during the time of scrutiny.

It appears now that the trial will finally go forward and Patrick McStay is committed to attending the trial, even if he won't attend the jury selection process. He has set up a GoFundMe account to help pay for his visit for the trial.

"I will be there for the trial on the 7th," McStay said. "Based on the original estimate of a three-month trial, they are now saying the trial may last up to six months. This not about me in any way but it is about my being able to continue to fight for my son, Joey, daughter-in-law Summer, and two small innocent little boys, Gianni and Joey Jr., by attending the trial of the accused murderer."


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