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. Lynn says:

    Blink where are you? Many of us are missing you, your insight and knowledge. Don’t be shy – come on back. :)

    Here. No news, and I have never been accused of being shy, ever. LOL

  2. Tarheel says:

    Hey Blink. Can you tell us why no comments or updates on this thread? Thanks.

  3. lyn says:

    We feel abandoned.

    lyn- who is we? I can assure you that I have not abandoned my work on the McStay case. I wish there was something to discuss at the moment.

  4. Alli says:

    Blink, can you confirm if this show has been confirmed? By the way, the Facebook page is now only open to members. Mike made it a closed group.

    Michael Mikey McStay

    February 28 at 10:39pm · Laguna Niguel, CA · Edited
    CNN AC360 with Randi Kaye – Tentative Air Date – 4/8/14

    Nope. Date is tentative.

  5. whodunnit says:

    Blink writes

    lyn- who is we? I can assure you that I have not abandoned my work on the McStay case. I wish there was something to discuss at the moment.
    Blink- there were rumors of Mike McStay doing an interview in April. Have you ( or anyone reading this post) been able to verify if this is true?

    I can verify he was interviewed- but the programming has not been scheduled publicly yet.

  6. alta says:

    Blink…do u know if any new info comming
    Out during interview like an arrest or
    Letting us know if case is cold.

    I do not at the moment.

  7. soundbeach says:

    Hi Blink: I was wondering if you could explain a little regarding when exactly is a criminal profiler brought into a murder investigation such as this and whether the FBI has a specific group of individuals who specialize in this. Also do you think this crime has much to offer in the area mentioned. Thank you.

    Short answer: When the jurisdiction requires their involvement, meaning there is a potential for a Federal charge and Yes- in a general sense this type of crime would be evaluated by the BAU.

    BAU= Behavior Analysis Unit

    Short answer because disclosing the long answer is a violation of my training commitments: Because this case was nearly 4 years old and leapt jurisdictions, I can tell you that the FBI is going to be very careful about consulting here. They are never going to want to own procedural or forensic errors and imo this case is rife with them. There may be extreme limits on information sharing, and there is, imo, a parallel investigation that might preclude areas of involvement.


  8. alta says:

    Any real chance of this case solving

    I believe so, yes.

  9. Jbethallen says:

    Do you work on only one case at a time on this website or are there others you are posting at this time that we can follow?

    Welcome Jbeth- my apologies for not getting to this sooner. I cover many cases, and at the moment, my private practice- which I am precluded from writing about, is taking precedent over this site- We also have some pressing production on new projects. Add in the pro bono work and the fact that I like my family to remember what I look like and have teenagers that require- well, teenage Mom-ness, the ole dance card is bust.

    Please set your RSS feed- and any new content will come to your email.

    Thank you for reading and wanting more- was my goal 6 years ago and is today.


  10. Sounbeach says:

    Thank you very much. I understand now.

  11. Rose says:

    when does, generally, a parallel investigation preclude areas of FBI involvement?
    would the parallel be Federal? (ie DEa?)
    or State?

    I am not sure I understand your question Rose-

  12. Rose says:

    ” and there is, imo, a parallel investigation that might preclude areas of involvement.”

    My question was would it be a State or Federal parallel investigation that would preclude FBI involvement?
    And, Would the parallel investigation be on the same criminal subject matter (murder) or a different type of felony?

  13. whodunnit says:

    Have no idea if this could be tied in, in any way, with the McStays, but it is interesting to note that
    a tunnel system was discovered, and people were arrested,at the Otay Mesa crossing. This crossing is minutes from the San Ysidro crossing, which is where the Izusu was abandoned. Make of it what you will!

  14. Alli says:

    According to Patrick McStay, on his Facebook page he stated the tentative interview scheduled with Mike on CNN for April 8th is off.

  15. Alli says:

    According to Mike, the show has been moved to May 8th per Patrick’s Facebook.

  16. Norma Thomas says:

    The show will be on May 8 2014 it was cancelled April 8 2014 due to the Malaysia airplane story

  17. Alli says:

    Blink, do you know if anybody besides Mike has retained a lawyer?


  18. Chelsea says:

    The evidence all points to Chase Merritt. He was in contact with Joey all day on the 4th and would certainly have been able to track the family’s movements–or convince them to be somewhere that evening.

  19. Chelsea says:

    Chase also might have had a motive beyond money. He’d had two failed fountain businesses. Perhaps with Joey gone he’d imagined the business would come to him. A wolf in sheep’s clothing, perhaps?

  20. Chelsea says:

    He was familiar with the area where the bodies were found. And he’d been known to call the family out on a moment’s notice before. They would have trusted him.

  21. Chris Honeycutt says:

    I would think that Chase M might have retained a lawyer given the logistics of the remains that were found. That is purely speculation, however.

  22. Alli says:

    Alli says:
    April 15, 2014 at 7:11 pm
    Blink, do you know if anybody besides Mike has retained a lawyer?


    Blink, thank you for your response. Can you elaborate as to who else besides Mike has retained an attorney? And, do you think this case will be solved?

  23. lyn says:

    Blink, has there been enough time gone by for all forensic test results to be back? Thank you!

    Presuming they are non-standard, as the remains were released, I would say that yes, they are. Whether or not they were conclusive to findings, I have to say I have my doubts given the timeframe and conditions of recovery.

  24. New 1 says:

    I suspect the McFaddens have hired a lawyer.

    I don’t think there will be much too the May 8th segment w/ Mike McStay. Maybe a blip. Hope it is more. Hope they have investigated further than what Mike has to say.

    “Me” I cannot allow you to have that hat- I am concerned that some would think it was actually ME- as in, the author and monitor of this piece and ensuing comments.

    Welcome to BOC- I named you New 1 to be changed at your desire or convenience.


  25. New 1 says:

    Oops, sorry B, I didn’t think about that!

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