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:

    SB-DA County investigators did not subpoena neighbors’ surveillance footage:

    It gets way worse. This neighbor testified that there were additional vehicles and or activity of interest she showed detectives and they did not either copy it or submit as evidence. In particular, she gets up due to some noise she heard about 28 minutes after the alleged 7:47 pull out of McStay driveway and turns on her front porch light but does not remember what caused it, or if there was any additional vehicle activity. Consider the State will be presenting evidence that someone was on the Mcstay home computer after 8 PM as well- will be interesting to see how that is received. In essence, SD LE should have flashed her entire drive, reviewed it, and go from there- to my knowledge they took select one hour intervals from 2/3 and 2/4- most judges arent letting that in without the LE testimony and accompanying expert- its possible she was taken out of order, but the defense may not have objected because it was obviously a major LE and prosecution error- the tape itself seems to include Merritt’s vehicle as we saw in opening.

  2. rose says:

    Is this a weak case?
    The prosecutor seems to be milking the
    family members in the trial rather than the
    sentencing phase.

    Very. Pains me to say so because at the very least, I believe Merritt was involved somehow. Its only the first week of the State’s case, but worst opening week I have ever seen in a capital case.

  3. Alli says:

    Blink, all great points! And especially about a bank fraud officer not being involved if Joey called the bank about fraud to his accounts as has been stated in the past.

    I don’t believe the family was killed in the home either. And since family and friends were in the house cleaning before LE got the warrant, it could be said evidence was planted to make it fit the DA’s case. Ramos jumped the gun on this case IMO.

    In addition- I rewatched an impromptu Dan Kavannaugh interview a few weeks after the bodies were located. I can tell you that his interview directly refutes Susan Blake’s testimony. If what he said was true about all sorts of cards and accounts were linked into the business paypal account, and Jim McGee can prove at the very least that $17K from the SA fountain was paid to Kavannaugh directly (via paypal) then DK has big problems. If the business account was linked, and it definitely appears it was, I am also not understanding why Blake had to use her own funds (if she did) either.

    The house was never processed forensically for any latent evidence until Aug 2014- if one can even believe that. The State is not going to be able to use the “time passed” as an excuse for not producing any evidence of an uber violent quadruple homicide in a home with a total of 10 foot sideyards backed by a canyon with a neighbor videotaping any comings and goings across from their house. Its just not reasonable for any juror to “buy” and I definitely believe this case is going to come down to that very issue.


  4. rose says:

    I haven’t followed this & don’t know the actors, but with an entire family so slaughtered in a tortuous manner—young boy hit in head 7 times with a hammer?—the crime was precipitated by far more than greed or gambling or some contretemps with father. This was a massive & very personal rage to the point of being delusional when effected. Such a very personal rage, to include brutal killing of kids, strikes me as coming from someone very close to the family, perhaps a relative.

  5. rose says:

    Or in the alternative someone quite high on something like meth+cocaine.

    The problem I have is that given the financial record evidence, I am inclined to believe at a bare minimum, both Dan Kavannaugh and Chase Merritt were at least of the opinion that Joey left on his own with his family, therefore abandoning his business and therefore their interests as well so they were “entitled” to help themselves- without fear of Joey taking action against them. So that indicates to me they had some sort of knowledge to think that reasonable- or they knew he was dead. That, to me, implies culpability and/or/ knowledge of what happened to them by the time they began alerting family and LE.

    In the interest of full disclosure, when I reviewed the case at the request of a family member, I could not exclude Merritt or Kavannaugh, and although I was told repeatedly that CM was not involved, I reminded them that from an investigative standpoint my work kept him very high on the suspect list. This occurred prior to the bodies being located in Nov 2013. The single biggest problem in this case is that the State is now married to their theory that one person is responsible, and that the murders were committed in the home- they do not have the evidence to prove that.


  6. rose says:

    “ it could be said evidence was planted to make it fit the DA’s case. Ramos jumped the gun on this case IMO”
    Only if the Defense attorney argues that point: did he explore it in Crossing Mike or Susan. He needs to call the Cleaners when it’s his turn.

    So far, the defense is taking a very low key exploration of the holes (vacuous black holes) in the States case. It is a position of cadence you don’t see all that often, but I believe is critical based on this Judge’s decorum and prior bench history. It is one of those cases I wish more folks with an interest in criminal due process from any vantage point would be following closely.

    Very similar in style and “overall” to the Martin Macneill trial so far-

  7. Alli says:

    Blink, don’t know if you have been following the trial or not but there is a live feed of the trial at

    Oh, I have Alli, thank you. Your thoughts on trial to date?


  8. Alli says:

    I haven’t seen any evidence yet to convince me Chase committed this crime. I think the defense is doing a good job with cross leaving no stone unturned. It becomes tedious at times but they are doing their job for their client. Looking forward to testimony about the QuickBooks, checks, and cell pings. Maybe something there will convince me of Chase’s guilt. Or maybe not….

    Agreed plus.

    Trooper keys found in Joey’s pocket not tested by the state until defense mentioned it at trial. Now that i an egg on face moment.

  9. Gold Prospector says:

    Long time you may not remember me but…

    I haven’t heard anything that points to Chase

    The prelim drove me crazy with so much bogus evidence made to look like something.
    1. The prosecution is cemented in Chase killing the family the evening of the 4th or am I wrong ?

    2, Prelim SB Sheriff I can prove it was Chase’s truck with that video. Really ? I think the defense has already swept that away or at the least “Who the hell knows because it is worthless

    3. The pinging cell tower so what. They say Chase said he wasn’t in Victorville area that day, A question asked over 3 years later he could be mistaken. ad nauseam On the 8th it was pouring there was a morning fatal accident on the 15 Fry 5 miles short of Victorville, when the freeway wasn’t closed because of the accident it was at a stop or backed up barely moving. There is so much more to add but I don’t want you to zzzzzzz

    4. Can’t wait for the DNA nightmare that is a comin

    From a credibility perspective YES, they are locked into that theory re the killings occuring at home. I get the sense that Imes floated the maybe Joey was “led from the home” and killed elsewhere

  10. Gold Prospector says:

    LPCR License plate camera readers have been In San Diego San Bernardino counties since 2005 using google earth historic images from 2009 in this picture taken on the 15fry Temecula is just one example of the pre 2010 cameras that are on every street every highway in all directions. Chase’s truck, Mike’s truck. Trooper, Dodge ram. Mike’s family van, McFadden. McGyver all could be tracked everywhere everyday. Even today this information is available because it never is erased. Really frustrating

    Yup. I recently used the availability of LPR in a private case (pre criminal matter). If you can believe it- local PD never thought to check if it was accessible to them.

  11. Alli says:

    Blink there has been a lot of egg on face moments with the prosecution. Still no witness testimony to prove the family was murdered in the house. The futon cover was not wrapped around Joey in the grave. Carmen Garcia testified today that Chase was in the office at Metro in the mid morning hours on Feb. 8th. Prosecution theory has Merritt driving the Trooper to the border that day when his phone was off. Phone off from 7:26 AM – 1:31 PM on the 8th. 1:31 PM his phone connects in Corona driving north. If he was at Metro during mid morning hours, this would conflict with the theory. Also, Det. Smith said anonymous tips were coming in about Dan but they weren’t investigated. WTF. Something is very wrong with all of this, IMO.

    Very and excellent points. I am intentionally not posting my list of discrepancies- I don’t want to be accused of influencing by anyone (not you lol). I watched Ms. Rodriguez scrawl “unsure” on that witness overhead after the defense wrote midmorning and thought to myself- she needs to watch her tone- her frustration can be calculated as a need to best the defense- not smart in a quad homicide with aggravators, imo. You think the State is calling DK?

  12. rose says:

    “Trooper keys found in Joey’s pocket not tested by the state until defense mentioned it at trial. Now that i an egg on face moment.

    Lordy, & there are vehicle whereabouts images preserved.

    Don’t these people understand best evidence?

    Why are taxpayers underwriting this Sheriff’s Dept?
    Might as well desolve it & start anew.

    Oh it gets better rose. Because the defense pointed out that fact during their opening, the State has since directed the lead det (revised case agent) Det Ryan Smith to test the key/keys in question- he testified last week that on January 15th the key found on a ring inside Joey’s pocket, which also contained TWO keys to the same storage lock, worked in both the Trooper ignition and the locks. This key on the person of a fully skeletonized murder victim who was buried for nearly 4 years started the trooper still.

  13. Alli says:

    I would be surprised if the state will call DK unless they have investigated him thoroughly and can prove he had no culpability. I’m not so certain they did. Regardless, I can see DK being a hostile witness if he is called.

    Yup. So far the State has not called any detective that has interviewed him in person and the State introduced one of his financial records without an expert. Don’t shoot the messenger (not you, lol, others) but this is one aspect I can see where the State has the potential to be outlawyered so to speak. To their credit I think they know the dangers of expanding their scope to aid the defense when it comes specifically to Kavannaugh- that said, the defense is not objecting to a bevy of hearsay wrt to DK for a reason. They want them to call DK on direct, not as a rebuttal item because in limine orders preclude him being offered as your basic SOD.

    Remember my prediction that we would be hearing scores of hearsay exclusion verbiage (not being offered as to truth of the matter asserted?) Um, yeah, I lost count this week. I am not sure if you listened to Merritt’s DuGaul and Fisk interview, but interestingly Merrit was under the impression DK was in HI (…” this whole time, he’s flying back tomorrow..”. He went on to say that as far as he was told or understood, DK was in HI for the timeframe of at least CM’s knowledge of DK involvement with EIP. In interviews, DK told a reporter he showed some sort of itinerary, but nobody knows if that is even true, the date, or whether it was confirmed via a flight manifest- for all we know it could be a return trip following Joey’s disappearance. I am of the opinion if DK alibi was tight enough to exclude him the defense would not be throwing any eggs to that basket.


  14. Alli says:

    I’m anxiously waiting to see if DK will be called.

    Maline and McGee are two wise and savvy attorneys. They know the evidence and how to work it. If the prosecution truly confirmed DK was in Hawaii, why haven’t they shared what definitive evidence they have to prove it. As you said, if the evidence was airtight, the defense would not be giving it any attention. DK is going to be a problem for the prosecution’s case, IMO.

    For me, it does not matter re involvement when the defendant cell is pinging in Rancho and Joeys in Fallbrook at 5:48PM. The State cannot prove their timeline with their emphatic theory it occurs at the Fallbrook home- making Chase drive there, sledgehammer 4 victims, without a trace of evidence it ever occurs, or of a clean up, load the carcases up in a vehicle which was taken apart piece by piece and again, not a scintilla of evidence of a violent crime or a make shift coroner van without the body bags, where it is to be kept for 2 days in some unknown location, again without detection, and driving out the driveway of the McStay’s 15 minutes before someone inside uses the computer and the vehicle is not seen within an hour of the 7:49 PM departure. I mean, what is a jury going to think about why the State can’t answer or address the gaping holes and actual contradiction in defendant location (as per pings).
    And then- Steer last week erroneous testimony about what Joey was wearing when recovered. Just wtf

  15. Alli says:

    Blink, I’m in total agreement with you.

    Did you watch the testimony of Leonid Rudin, forensic photography, reconstruction enhancements today? He was on the stand for proffer today. His field is rather new and not certain if he can be considered an expert. His testimony was rather difficult to understand between the science and mathematics of his field. Rudin’s company analyzed the neighbor’s video showing headlights, taillight of a vehicle that prosecutor’s say is Merritt’s truck and added measurements. State reconstruction expert says the headlights/taillight on the video line up with Merritt’s truck taking into account the angle/slope of the road and the camera angle. Quite convincing and hard to refute being a newer type of field. The defense had their expert (out of state) send in questions for cross but not very effective since McGee didn’t know enough about what he was asking. The question is how does the defense adequately question Rudin about a topic that is so new? If Rudin is not classified as an “expert” should he even be testifying?

    I was not able to yet Alli- no. If this is in reference to the Farro scan as the medium and the defense is not objecting to Dr. Rudin as an expert (yet) AND as I understand it they do not have access to his proprietary system for analysis, there are a few strategy reasons I can think of as a possibility. Speaking generally- I have seen cases where it advantaged the defendant for the jury to get their “junk science” allegation from the State, especially if it makes their expert superior by contrast. Also, since they don’t have everything of his via discovery they are likely not wanting to throw out the baby with the bathwater in that regard because it can always be exculpatory as well.

  16. Alli says:

    Prosecution must be desperate placing recording devices in visitor’s area when Cathy Jarvis recently visited Chase. Why is this happening so late in the case? The prosecution had years to put their case together. Are they not confident with their evidence? Judge ruled the recording of Chase trying to get Cathy to change her story is admissible and will be played for the jury.

    I missed this and I sincerely apologize Alli.

    Im sure you noticed almost everything of note in the people’s case came as a reaction at trial- I have never seen anything like it. Their case looked like a proffer meeting for a plea- not a quadruple homicide. So by the time I got this, you also know the State is not calling Jarvis because Judge Smith also said if the jail recording comes in then the def will get to play her interrogation where LE openly threatened to imprison her as an accomplice to murder. The Det in charge at the time was replaced by Smith (the secret decoder ring dude and current case manager).

    The 1118.1 motion response/memo tells us this court is paying close attention. It also tells us this Judge did not and is not buying these murders occur in the house. Duh. I could scream (and have been) the single biggest error this pros has made – not looking forward to seeing that walk back session. I really believe this was about Ramos and his bid for re election. He lost and now we have a due process time clock. Merritt will never take the stand- but the jury will need him to (they think) to answer that very specific question Randy Kaye neglected to. Patrick McStay and Summer’s sis Tracey Russell are being called by the defense. God Bless- that is going to be agony.

  17. Alli says:

    Lol, Det. Smith the prosecution’s expert witness on everything! What a joke!

    Thank you for offering the reason as to why Jarvis wasn’t called by the prosecution. It makes perfect sense. Don’t want the jury to see their no good strong-armed tactics.

    I am in total agreement with you about this case being related to Ramos, his re-election and future political career. But it didn’t work out well for Ramos and the prosecutors are stuck trying a case without clear convincing evidence. Although, it you read comments from the McStay family supporters, they 100% believe the prosecution is doing a bang up job! They are in denial. Chase became the easiest target being a felon. He very well could have murdered the family but I haven’t yet been convinced by the evidence presented. There are still so many gaps and unanswered questions. I’m confident the defense will present a clear organized rebuttal with expert witnesses (unlike prosecution with Smith) and will raise plenty of doubt in the jurors minds.

    I feel for Tracey and Patrick. It isn’t going to be easy. What about Susan and Mike? Do you know if they will be recalled? It will be a waste of time since they don’t remember much including key events. Has to be difficult for Mike with all the different stories he told the media and public. Hard to remember fact from fiction.

    Update: Neither Patrick nor Tracey will be called following their subpoena (expired dates).
    Did you hear Susan Blake’s recall? If that is any indication I can assume that MM will fight his subpoena. In hearing arguments- also learned that only the $500 child support check was received by Heather Martin, and some flooring Mikey gave them they then sold. It would certainly impeach Blake on her allegations that got approval from DuGaul to have DK access funds for that purpose. Imo, Blake’s credibility is shot in front of this jury- which hurts the people’s case considering the Judge himself considered her a critical witness. Why do I feel so sure rn that this case hinges on whether or not DK testifies or takes the 5th?

  18. Rose says:

    If the daughter is credible, & she seems to be,
    the wrong guy is being prosecuted.

    I think both the Jarvis women seemed credible to me- and most certainly aware that they had no reason to lie. In fact, I was surprised at Catherine Jarvis’s candor considering CM is pretty much a shit in the Baby Daddy/Father area for leaving her in a motor home on the property of a woman she cleans for and has no operating utilities WHILE he was living with another woman. Their youngest son is either Downs or ASD or both and is home schooled. It is my personal belief that CJ thinks that CM was perhaps the intended target or through some misdeed the “cause” of what happened, but does not believe for a second he personally raped Summer or bludgeoned all four to death with a sledgehammer with his own hands, on his own, which is the instant allegation. Ada Rodriguez handled her cross poorly, imo, this jury walked away thinking that Jarvis was an intended Prosecution witness who they decided not to call because she was not going to change her story. I believe the heart of her testimony was re whether or not CM was on the property on 2/4/10 when she tried his cell from hers. I have no doubt that the defense intends to corroborate her with their own expert- especially considering SA Boles deferred the question re the possibility (according to the cell cdr)when asked specifically. He knows the answer. He is well trained and he knew either way answering was going to give rise to impeachment in the defense case.

  19. Rose says:

    These murders seem well planned &
    executed by a professional hit man & team.
    Probably originating in Mexico.

    Very interesting you mention that- my notes from the case when I was asked to review it indicate that there was a painter at the McStay home (had also helped with move?) who alledgedly went to Mexico and did not return- prompting McGyver’s stint beginning January 31. The people’s case had Merritt overnight in Tijuana (he also mentioned he was there in his LE interview) on Jan 27th/28th. My notes opine Joey was also in Tijuana from his cell records. I guess we shall see if the defense plans to bring that information in. I will say that Joey’s Dad Patrick has also said on the record it looks like a hit, and that no way did CM (if he did it) act alone. I agree on both counts.

    The problem with that, in this case at trial, is that DK had more motive than CM and certainly profited more ultimately. That said- nobody can ever predict what a jury will do.

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