McStay Family Murdered: Will Desert Graves Yield Their Killers?

Deserted in the Desert

Gianni Family Photo





Gianni Martelli McStay had rock star hair at only 4years old.  His little brother Joseph, affectionately nicknamed Chubba- did as well.  They both rocked a beanie like no other little dudes.

Chubba Family Photo

Gianni and Chubba were as inseparable in life as they were in death when they were recovered in a shallow grave in the Mojave Desert on November 11.

Their parents, Joseph, 40 and Summer McStay, 43, were located in a separate grave nearby.

A 3rd gravesite was found-but empty.  A protected source not authorized to speak to the media has confirmed that at least one of the parent’s remains was bound by an electrical cord.

While formal DNA comparisons and autopsy protocols are pending, the manner of death in all four victims have been declared homicides.

Just about 50 yards off the intersection of Route 15 and Quarry Rd the family that San Diego County Sheriff’s Department (SDCSD) believed was “likely” voluntarily missing on their own and living in Mexico, was recovered in a 30 hour excavation process.   An off road motorcycle enthusiast called the San Bernardino County Sheriff when he came across what he suspected was human remains.

Last April SDCSD forwarded the McStay case to the FBI based on their conclusions that the McStay’s had McGone to Mexico, following a lengthy complaint of their handling of the case by Patrick McStay, Joseph’s Father.   Troy Dugal, previous lead investigator of the McStay case, appeared on several news and cable television programs over the last three years explaining there was “overwhelming” circumstantial evidence the family of four that was pictured crossing the border into Tijuana, Mexico the evening of February 8th, 2010 was in fact, the McStays.

Following the recovery, San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office will maintain jurisdiction of the investigation.

Frenemies..  Frenethieves.. Friends.. Family or Cartel?

Who brutally murders innocent children and dumps them in a hole they dug in the desert?

Logically- someone who is very familiar with the area.  Of course it is just as shocking and horrific to murder anyone,  but it takes a specific brand of evil to murder a baby.  Make that two.

There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that either Joseph or Summer McStay had any ties to drugs, associates with ties to drugs or cartel, at any time.   None.

Contrary to a top selling book on the case, “No Goodbyes” by Rick Baker, there has never been any evidence whatsoever that Summer McStay was some sort of closeted psychotic and homicidal type.  The book goes on to malign members of both Joseph and Summer’s families and in some cases outright accuses same of extortion or stealing.   Baker’s subsequent public theory is that Summer murdered Joseph and everyone should be looking for her and the boys in Mexico.

Not surprisingly , Baker has requested Amazon pull his book from available stock and has offered refunds to prior purchases.   Popular online sleuth sites previously promoting “No Goodbye’s” have since either deleted it’s hundreds of posts endorsing Baker, or moved them to a member’s only private viewing area.

Albeit obtusely, Baker does touch on a troubling and serious abuse allegation concerning Joseph McStay’s oldest son from his first marriage, Jonah, and his step-father, Michael McFadden.  He writes summer filed a complaint with Child Protective Services after she and Joseph recorded a conversation with Jonah and placed a copy of same with a private party for safekeeping. has been able to independently verify that is accurate, but that the investigation was not known to be completed until shortly after the McStay’s disappearance.  Under California probate law, Jonah would be an heir to the McStay estate or as otherwise provisioned in the instance of an existing will.

Interviewed by Laura Ling for E! Investigation, Joseph McStay’s web administrator Dan Kavanaugh claims he was the first to become concerned.  In Baker’s book, he refers to him as a suspect and details how he alleges he was funneling cash from McStay’s business account before he or anyone else knew the family was missing.  Kavanaugh has an unrelated open criminal matter in San Diego County according to court records.

Chase Merritt- Joseph McStay’s business partner in his water fountain design and installation business was the last number ever dialed from his phone at 8:28PM on February 4th.  Merritt joined McStay in a lunch meeting earlier that afternoon where they discussed a proposal for a very large car wash chain to feature custom fountains in each facility.   According to family friend MacCargar McGyver, McStay was very excited about the opportunity.  Merritt claims he passed a voluntary lie detector test, and that he was adamant that Joseph McStay would never have taken his family to Mexico and has always believed they met with foul play.

McGYver spent several days leading up to February 4th at the McStay home due to a painter Summer hired not returning to complete the job.  McGyver introduced Summer and Joseph and by all accounts was a close confidant of the couple.

Patrick McStay, Joseph’s Father living in Texas has had some harsh words for the investigation into the disappearance of his son, daughter in law and grandsons.

“…most botched, inept investigation I’ve ever seen in my entire life.”

He also believes very strongly that the list of suspects with motive to kill his family members is very short.  Three, to be exact.

He said the department didn’t even bother to contact him to tell him his son’s remains had been found.

“I got a message from someone [on Thursday] on Facebook telling me to go and read an article,” McStay said. “The minute I read the article, I knew it was him.”

“I have exhausted and have so much information on three possible persons of interest. All have a motive.”

The three individuals are not connected to each other, but all of them seem like likely candidates. Patrick says one of them seems to be a particularly likely suspect: he’s a wealthy man with a long rap sheet that includes charges of attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon and burglary. McStay says he, too, has a motive for killing his son.

Although Mr. McStay did not reference him by name, he may be referring to Michael James McFadden, who was arrested in July 1998 and charged with attempted murder and a litany of other felonies including great bodily harm to a child:

459/460(a) PC – Burglary 07/16/1998 02/25/2000 Dismissed
422 PC – Assault 07/16/1998 02/25/2000 Dismissed
273.5(a) PC – Domestic Violence 07/16/1998 02/25/2000 Dismissed
12022.7(d) PC – Infliction of great bodily injury on a child under the age of five … 07/16/1998 02/25/2000 Dismissed
422 PC – Assault 07/16/1999 02/25/2000 Dismissed
240 PC – Attempt to inflict violent force on another person. 07/16/1999 02/25/2000 Dismissed
245(a)(1) PC – Assault with a deadly weapon other than a firearm 07/16/1998 01/18/2000 Pled Guilty
12022.7(d) PC – Infliction of great bodily injury on a child under the age of five… 07/16/1998 02/25/2000 Dismissed
422 PC – Criminal Terrorist Threat 07/16/1999 01/18/2000 Pled Guilty
664-187 PC – Attempted Murder 07/16/1998 02/25/2000 Dismissed

You will note some of the charges are from 1998, others 1999 on the anniversary date, McFadden successfully negotiated a plea agreement and only pled to criminal terroristic threats and assault with a deadly weapon other than a firearm.  Both felonies.

In the complaint he lodged against the detectives in SDCSD, Patrick McStay specifically references failure to interview key suspects he provided to LE directly.

Given the location of the bodies, it would seem that whoever is responsible would at least want investigators to think McFadden was involved.  As a self-proclaimed mountain bike “racer”, McFadden has participated in several bike events in various locations all along the Route 15 Mojave corridor.  SBCSO says they will be re-interviewing everyone in the case and have no suspects.

There have been no named suspects to date and the investigation is ongoing.  Memorial or Funeral arrangements for the McStay’s have not yet been announced .  LATE EDIT: The family and friends of the McStay family will gather at the grave site in Victorville,  on Joseph’s McStay’s birthday.

To be continued in Part 2:  Analysis of the last day of their lives points to involvement by someone they knew.



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  1. Rose says:

    is Chase repping bimself?
    if so, is that due to poverty or
    mental illness?

  2. Audie says:

    Blink, with Chase representing himself he would get to see all the documentation they have against him right. Was the same true when he had a lawyer, or would a lawyer only show him certain paperwork on occasion and this way he gets possession of it all?

    It is no different whatsoever, with the exception that he will have appointed counsel as well, regardless, and they would likely be in receipt ( as a practical matter) of all the discovery and meet with him to review and advise. They would not have the capacity to withhold anything from him, nor would retained counsel.

  3. Rose says:

    @Blink, Audie. Representing self with co-appointed Counsel has the flavor–mild or strong idk–of a paranoid thought style. Could be situational or chronic; could be due fo mental illness, or innocence in a concrete or uneducated thinker.
    Baker (imo a parasite) advertised for 1 or more pro bono lic PIs to cull internet whatever to support a new book, proceeds to charity natch, focus on Mike & family system “grifters,” changeable focus, he says, based on progression of Chase’ prosecution.

    I can tell you what else it is- it frees him up for lawyers looking to take such a case to contact him directly- jus sayin’

  4. Audie says:

    BOC, sorry if this is a stupid question, but if do lawyers generally want to do a good job because their reputations are on the line?

    Whereas if Chase represents himself, maybe he feels defeated, given up hope, feels what the heck, playing the martyr.

    Or could it be really doesn’t think he has long to live, or really is guilty?

  5. Lynne M. says:

    Hi B ~ Why do you suppose Merritt wants to represent himself? Do you think he’ll retain counsel at some point or is this part of his ego? Thanks Blink!

    I think he is interviewing lawyers for private retention.

  6. Rose says:

    A word about the Blogger Who Isn’t Named.
    going to his blog for a rare visit, I see he is
    attacking posters on this site for defamation or whatever.
    Personally I resent being lumped in with the likes of WS & JQ.
    But iirc, you long ago made known that commenting on his writings here was
    unwelcome & a timewaster. So I don’t get how he thinks anyone
    is discussing him here. I will offer one adjectival description about
    his writing I glanced at just now–my impression as a reader:
    highly grandiose.

  7. Rose says:

    Oh, I see I did call him a parasite. Well, that is a good oldfashioned
    adjectival description of his relation to the McStays.

  8. Rose says:

    The irony. He Who Will Not Be Named blogs a diatribe against anonymous posters on other sites, identifying them.
    Followed immediately by 191 largely “anonymous” comments on his own blog.

  9. GraceintheHills says:

    Neurotaffy. I LOVE it!

  10. blabberhater says:

    Blink: RB has been claiming to have inside knowledge about the case to include evidence. He’s also speculating that others will be arrested. Have you also heard about additional arrests and do you think he really has an “insider”? Can’t wait for the evidence to come out so we hear more from you. I miss your posts and comments.

    My best advice to you ( didn’t I give you this already? lol) is to not read that tripe.
    As my Mother would say- I would not believe a word he said if he told me water was wet.

  11. Gold prospector says:

    Not sure if the info posted here about Patrick Maloy has been corrected or not. I have looked but did not find it, just to let you know that the Patrick Maloy on your Dec 22. 2013 is not the right Patrick Maloy. Patrick still lives with his mom in San Diego and is only 28 it is the same one who has or had a girlfriend Gina Baca but he is not 50 something and has never lived in Oklahoma. I went down that rabbit hole that is how I know ..LOL Wish I could get those hours back.

  12. Gold prospector says:

    RB is getting pretty weird if you ask me. I never took his post as anything but fiction but it is going off the rails lately. but I still go to his blog for nothing else but to engage with other commenters who like myself have a healthy interest in this unsolved v interesting murder case . I loved coming here every night after work it was my go to ..but like everything it came to an end but I still miss reading your thoughts and others comments. YAK even though when I gave my 2 cents once about Summer and her real estate license I was crucified

  13. Marie says:

    Killing 4 people, blunt force will leave blood evidence. Painting a crime scene does not cover all evidence of blood. I do not think they were killed at home. No way! (of course I’m assuming that the home would have been checked–eyeballed and chemical application to the home and drains)for blood.

  14. Dee'sMom says:

    Marie you might be assuming too much. I don’t think they did anything beyond “eyeballing” the scene and thereby dropped the ball in a big way.

  15. Audie says:

    Blink why would officials not state motive, is it because it would be unfair to Chase’s right to a fair trial?

    Legally speaking, prosecutors are not required to prove motive, but even if they know ( I believe they have a theory) they are not likely to reveal that publicly until they present their case in chief or in the varying pre-trial hearings. They do not want to be accused of polluting a jury pool.

  16. Audie says:

    Is it true that the Prosecution could have proceeded without Chase having his case file?

    No, it is being reset.

  17. MandyVZ says:

    They couldn’t have been killed like that in the house, right? So where’s the murder scene? Or am I misunderstanding what the house looked like when they did the walk-through afterward?

    Not just that but they don’t place Merritt in Victorville until the 6th. Where is someone hiding 4 murder victims with those injuries for 2 days?

  18. Audie says:

    What do you make of reports now saying that the 8:28 p.m. call from Joseph’s phone to Chase never existed, that it was just made up by Chase in the first place, Chase who changed his story on that call many times?

    What reports?

  19. Jim says:

    As to why there was not a lot of blood? I think he pulled the futon over each victim one at a time to prevent blood spatter. I think he incapacitated Joey and slugged Summer in the jaw (broken jaw) possibly with the sledge hammer until both parents were incapacitated. The kids would have been easy targets, I think. What makes me think this is the fact that Joey’s upper body was inside the futon cover. He was probably killed last.
    As far as the bodies go, I think they stayed in his garage until Saturday morning when he was ready to bury them.
    I feel like they have arrested the murderer, but something bothers me that I hope is bothering the prosecution, because I know the defense will jump on it. How did Merritt drive two vehicles all over California? Blink?

    Jim- welcome to BOC.

    I respectfully disagree with your scenario as a possible explanation for an entire void of blood evidence at the alleged scene. If we discuss “evidence based” practice- I cannot find a single case in either state or Fed database that would have a similar finding. That is not say the exception cannot sometimes be the rule- it can, but until I see at the very least autopsy protocols, I continue to be firm in my opinion that all 4 murders did not take place at the residence.

  20. GraceintheHills says:

    Remember, his phone was off for periods of time on the 5th. Didn’t he have a rented warehouse space in RC at that time?

    Are you referring to Merritt or Joey? Joey had warehouse space ( not in RC) and Joey’s subcontractors had what I would call “storage space” in a handful of locations.


  21. GraceintheHills says:

    I was referring to Merritt. Didn’t he rent a space in RC?

    He had one, and as I understand it access to Joey’s.

  22. GraceintheHills says:

    Thanks, I thought so.

  23. lc says:

    Having read your opinion on the crime scene being the home, id like to know if you think the following is at all plausable;
    Joseph is unexpectedly physically attacked while heatedly arguing with his killer, sustaining the non life threatning wounds to the ribs and leg, and ultimatly is subdued where his attacker then begins banging the back of his head on the floor (perhaps garage) and in an attempt to strangle him, ties a cord around Josephs neck.
    The comotion brings Summer to the scene where she is vicsiously physically attacked (chase merrit despised her and she appears to have taken the worst initial non life threatening beating). She is then also thrown to the floor and has her head banged on floor until unconscious.
    The murders are completed in the bathtub or another controlled enviroment using a small sledge that was used for closing paint cans.
    Killer leaves in a hurry, leaving a grisly crime scene behind and heads home.
    Next morning after several calls to victim in an attempt to establish if the scene has been discovered the killer realises they have an oppertunity for a cleanup/coverup.
    killer spends the 5th cleaning the house, and wrapping/loading bodies.
    killer feeds/waters animals and heads home.
    killer burries bodies on the night of the 6th finishing on the morning of the 7th.
    Killer goes back to victims home on the 7th to finalize some details, paint, etc, then drives victims vehicle to border and stages it the morning of the 8th. The Killers phone, having been off all day on the 7th and 8th finally pinges at 1:30pm in corona on his way home to RC as he turns it back on.
    killer calls victims dad and brother on 8th knowing he is ready, and ultimatly meets victims brother at victims house on 13th.
    maybe not exact, but plausible?
    …one thing that continues to puzzle me is the end of the extension cord that was cut off and tossed at the grave site. The prosecution made a point to mention that fact, I cant help but wonder its signifigance, any thoughts?
    Thanks for any response blink

    Not sure what you are referring to as so far I have seen no clear nor convincing evidence these murders occurred in the home.

  24. lc says:

    What about the fouton cover being tied over the cord found on Josephs neck?
    Seems like a long shot that the cover would have been taken to a crime scene away from the home then wrapped over the body before being placed in the grave dont you think?

    lc- respectfully- I do ask that posters new to a thread read earlier responses- I have addressed this issue as I have the fact that for now I do not believe all of the murders, possibly NONE of them, occurred in the home. There is no confirmation that was the fouton cover. It might have been, and Joey was driving the trooper with several sheets covering child toys- it is not out of the realm that the cover or something similar was inside the trooper when Joey met Merritt for lunch. I don’t think there is enough confirmed evidence at this point to posit theory as much as the void of evidence does-

  25. lc says:

    Fair enough. I respect your opinion and if you feel that strongly i will certainly take that into account.
    Only thing I will say is I do believe much of the void was created by shoddy police work by the SDSD and the passing of 5yrs.
    In your experience is it too late after all this passed time and remodeling in the home to perform luminol detection?


    PS. I have read your blog for many years but will be sure to refresh the threads before posting.

    There are many newer and sophisticated methods to detect potential bio evidence, and the intimation I infer from the warrants and prelim transcript is that nothing conclusive was found. The only thing removed from the home was a piece of carpet and DNA swab samples from the stairs under the 2014 warrant- and Ramos was quite specific the lack of “crime scene” ( my words) was going to be an affirmative defense.

    The assertion that the ground floors have been replaced is not admissible as evidence of a murder cover-up.

  26. Donovan says:

    Ms. Stoy, I found your blog after your presentation at Harvard X. I was shocked at the amount of content and how many cases you have covered as you only profiled the Anthony and the McStay cases in Jury X. I am now following the McStay case thanks to you. I found out my wife is in a private FB group discussing it but don’t have the time or the water cooler netiquette. Is it ok if I post my questions after reading this thread?

    Donovan!!! Nice to see you and how are you? Welcome to BOC!

    Professor Nesson was someone I feel like I may never see/experience again. Absolutely would love your participation in the discussion.

    On a personal note, in class full of practicing attorneys from all areas- you made this analyst and non-lawyer feel contributory, thank you.

    Please fire away on any questions. (This thread is McStay)


  27. Donovan says:

    Thanks Blink! Interesting Moniker, btw. After reading up and getting the Mrs. FB group feedback (she says you are on them so if this is repeat ok to skip) Here are my preliminary questions on The People of the State of California v Charles R. Merritt:

    1. You seem pretty adamant that Joseph McStay may have been killed at or near the storage facility. Can you summarize your theory on this? Let’s suppose that you are correct. Given what you have seen in terms of publicly disclosed information, the hearing transcripts to date and your own resources how would you see that affecting either sides pre trial prep?
    2. You contrasted the cases in class from a mainstream and social media perspective. I think it is a fair assessment to say that the litigators in our group were floored when you introduced that aspect to the deliberations. How do you anticipate that affecting this trial?
    3. As I understand your bio and experience you are particularly versed in forensic analysis of evidence and overall criminal investigations. My question is in your analysis what is the strongest evidence of guilt of this defendant and how do you anticipate he will mount his defense accordingly?

    Donovan- if it’s ok with you my format in general is I allow posters to weigh in as well, so I am going to post this without my responses first and see if anyone wants to address and then I will respond. Great questions!

  28. Rose says:

    Great succinct Qs.
    Looking forward to BOC answers.
    May require a new piece?

    In the meantime, I hope this Harvard X class
    participant scopes out the Horman case.

    I certainly owe a response and I will. I also “cop” to the contemplation that such a response may be worthy of a stand alone piece in McStay. #ruminating. Such is my crutch- any journalistic endeavor while attempting an outcome has its, well, crutches.


  29. Tom Vang says:

    What a coincidence that an individual (Steven D. Geisler) who was affiliated with Western Construction Auctions, (which is a huge auction house in Perris, California and which likely handled Merritt’s repossessed truck when it was sent to auction); Anyway Steven Geisler’s truck was found about six miles from the area that Chase Merritt lived in in Rancho Cucamonga. Recall that Steven Geisler disappears from town of Phelan, California on May 10, 2013, same time as Chase’s disappearing act.

    Phelan is on the north side of the San Gabriels while Rancho Cuco is on the southside of the mountain. Per the preliminary hearing, Det. Edward Bachman states that Chase Merritt’s truck (at the time of the McStay family’s disappearance) was repossessed, and that the detective believes that it went to an auction company out of, Perris, California. WOW! WCA is in Perris, CA.

  30. Rose says:

    a sexual sadist was involved? why easn’t his dna recovered?

    Not to my knowledge Rose- a sexual sadist is a very specific and “complex” offender profile. That said, you pick up on an element of this crime that (once again) that is worthy of further scrutiny.
    Bottom line- you cannot use the absence of evidence to convict someone of an aggravated quadruple homicide. Now you have a jurisdiction with enhanced prosecutorial misconduct standard. This Judge reminds me very much of The Honorable Derek Pullan (4th circuit, Utah). Judge Pullan presided over the Martin Macneill trial. It was by far the BEST criminal due process lawyering I have ever seen (both sides) whether I agreed with it or not (for the record, I 100% believe Gypsy Willis was involved at the very least after the fact).

    As an example, Merritt’s defense just received a TRO to stop the sheriffs dept from removing his files from his cell. Because he is not pro per- the jail rule only allows one accordion binder as opposed to 3. Why are they messing with this guy at the corrections level? Judge ruled for him, but the bigger question for me would be why does this seem to coincide with new discovery/subpoena returns? Is someone interested in what is in his files at the corrections level?

  31. Rose says:

    i mean her bra was cut off & her pants and panties
    pulled off together. You’d think touch dna would be on something.

    I have not seen the forensics reports Rose, but in that environment it would not surprise me- the elements erode DNA or any bio samples faster than anything. There is some merit to that climate producing mummification conditions that might preserve same, but definitely not in this case. That said, reminder that there is not a scintilla of evidence from the house that ANYONE has tortured or killed, or apprehended or any other presumed heinous occurrence.

    Not a scintilla of evidence that Merritt’s vehicle transported 4 brutally murdered individuals and the very gorey bio material which would accompany that- I would offer there is evidence it was definitely not Merritt’s work truck that backed into those clandestine grave sites.

    The graves are the strongest crime scene, that is up to and until the State has discovered and disclosed any others.


  32. Rose says:

    interesting, Vang.

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