McStay Family Murders: Charles Chase Merritt Arrested In The Murders of McStay Family

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  1. Alli says:

    Update on attorney decision:

    Joe Nelson
    Joe Nelson ‏@SBcountyNow
    #McStay family murder suspect Charles Merrit chose to represent himself in his capital murder case during court hearing this morning.

    Correct, but he will have advisory counsel under the law.

  2. Gold Prospector says:

    I don’t think Chase has done anything in court that he wasn’t told to do to get from A to Z. Orchestrated well in advance the chess moves. I also believe that the State and Judge know exactly what is going on also. Even if Chase is a control freak like has been said, he is doing what he is told to do IMO

    Agreed. 100%

  3. Goat says:

    If I am reading this correctly Chase intends to retain counsel.
    Case FVI1404194 Defendant 505412 MERRITT , CHARLES RAY

    Action: DISPO/RESET Date: 02/11/2016 Time: 8:33 AM
    Defendant Status: Active Division: S21 Hearing Status: DISPOSED

    TIME WAIVED TO 05/25/2016.
    SET LAST DATE FOR TRIAL TO 05/25/2016.

    Yes indeed Goat- as I have maintained all a long- Merritt knows exactly what he is doing and in my view Mettias improperly solicited Merritt to pull a Jose Baez. Mettias is not qualified as first chair in capital cases in the first place. You know what being pro per does though?

    It allows you to have a great deal of private meetings outside of being recorded and phone calls that may not be recorded and in some cases not even monitored. kwim?

  4. Goat says:

    So Mettias got some publicity and left Merritt hanging??
    Will Merritt have any say on picking his pro bono?

    He is getting next PD on the felony bar- but I assume he knows who that is and he will add from that.

  5. Alli says:

    Blink, is this how it works? Chase uses an attorney off the court appointed list who then can contract with other attorneys like Maline and McGee? If this is the case, who pays for all these attorneys? The county? I would think the county only has to provide one attorney.

    He is indigent status- but that filing and designation per se is private in CA. In a capital case it follows the rules of statute for defense representation.

  6. goat says:

    More on Chase
    McStay family murder suspect Charles ‘Chase’ Merritt gets new attorneys
    McStay family murder suspect Charles “Chase” Merritt appears in court at San Bernardino Superior Court during a motion hearing March 16, 2015.
    McStay family murder suspect Charles “Chase” Merritt appears in court at San Bernardino Superior Court during a motion hearing March 16, 2015. File photo
    By Joe Nelson, The Sun
    POSTED: 03/04/16, 6:03 PM PST | UPDATED: 1 WEEK, 2 DAYS AGO 2 COMMENTS
    SAN BERNARDINO >> After blowing through six attorneys since his arrest 16 months ago in connection with the beatings deaths of a San Diego County family of four, Charles “Chase” Merritt announced Friday in San Bernardino Superior Court he has retained two more attorneys.

    Rajan Maline, who carried over from Merritt’s prior defense team, and James Mcgee, a former San Bernardino County prosecutor of 12 years turned defense attorney, are now on board.

    Judge Michael A. Smith made it clear that Merritt’s indecisiveness will no longer be dealt with so leniently.

    “I’m sure the counsel’s aware that Mr. Merritt has been pro per, he’s had prior counsel, then back to pro per. So, the court is probably not going to be inclined to change counsel easily in the future,” Smith told Maline and McGee. “You’re both on notice that you’re kind-of on for the duration at this point.”

    Pro per is when a defendant acts as their own attorney.

    Merritt, 58, of Homeland, faces the death penalty for the execution-style beating deaths of Joseph McStay, 40; his wife, Summer, 43; and their two children, Gianni, 4, and Joseph Jr., 3, in Feb. 2010. He was arrested in Nov. 2014 at his place of employment and part-time residence in Chatsworth.

    Authorities believe Merritt beat the family to death in their Fallbrook home with a 3-pound sledgehammer, then buried their bodies in two shallow graves in the Mojave Desert, north of Stoddard Wells Road and west of the 15 Freeway, near Victorville.

    Investigators believe greed motivated the slayings, describing Merritt during his preliminary hearing as a debt-ridden gambling addict who wrote multiple checks totaling more $21,000 on Joseph McStay’s online business account within a week of the family’s disappearance on Feb. 4, 2010. The checks were deleted from McStay’s computer once they were printed, according to court testimony.

    Merritt then allegedly went on a gambling spree, withdrawing thousands of dollars in cash from ATM machines at Indian casinos in Temecula and San Bernardino and the Commerce Casino near Los Angeles, according to prior court testimony.

    Maline said after Friday’s hearing the evidence doesn’t hold up, and the reason the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department didn’t arrest Merritt in the four years the case was in their jurisdiction was due to the lack of evidence supporting an arrest.

    Among the most glaring problems with the prosecution’s case is that it alleges Merritt killed the McStay family in their home, despite there being no physical evidence to suggest that.

    Other conflicting evidence includes the McStay’s Izusu Trooper being found at the Mexican border in San Ysidro and a video at the border that recorded footage of a man, woman and two small boys walking across the border into Mexico who matched the McStay family’s description, Maline said.

    San Diego County investigators believed the people seen in the video crossing the border, given their physical descriptions and clothing, were in fact the McStays, which is why the investigation shifted from a homicide case to a missing persons case, Maline said.

    San Bernardino County sheriff’s investigators, however, ruled out the possibility the people in the video were the McStays, Maline said. He said he believes investigators were under great pressure to close the high profile case by any means necessary.

    Maline and McGee said they can discredit all the prosecution’s evidence, both physical and circumstantial, and present evidence of their own strengthening their arguments.

    “Forensically, this case doesn’t match the prosecution’s theory. It’s still a mystery,” Maline said. “From our standpoint, none of this fits. They are trying to put a square peg into a round hole.”

    I provided the link below goat.

    I am hopeful the State has re-thought their theory

  7. goat says:

    Thanks B
    Looking forward to the trial.
    Might be a circus.

  8. Goat says:

    Rick Baker has a new blog up.
    Thank you Goat. I appreciate the update, but because I will not be posting any links to Mr. Baker’s Blob. Uhm, I mean blog.

  9. Goat says:


  10. fischer says:

    I’m curious why you think the state should change it’s theory?

    Because not one of the family members was killed in the home as stated. It is central to the State’s case and their accusation. In my view the defense knows this. I have no doubt the State has been working on this since the arrest.

  11. fischer says:

    I’m confused, how do you know the family wasn’t killed in the home? The items found in the graves (possible bath robe, A child’s bath towel, possible futon cover) seem to indicate they were. If they were abducted from the home and murdered elsewhere, how would that change things for Merritt and the case?

    What was not found in the home, or what was found elsewhere that may normally be found in the home is not evidence they were murdered there- it was the reason for the initial demurrer. The prosecution has the burden of presenting its case in chief to secure a conviction against a defendant. I don’t “know” the family was not killed in the home- I was not there, but if Chase Merritt is the sole person responsible for the murder I do not want there to be any doubt about how it happened to interfere with a true verdict. What happened to this family is unthinkable. They died horrific deaths and were tossed in the desert like trash- I would like the person or persons responsible to be brought to justice, unlike the outcome of many high profile cases.

  12. fischer says:

    Thanks. But to my question, if they were abducted from the home and murdered elsewhere, how would that change things for Merritt and the case? I mean do they really have to prove they were murdered in the home for a jury to find Merritt guilty of murder? A jury is not obligated to tell how they came to their conclusion of guilt. In my opinion, there is so much evidence already presented to convince me he did it without the home stuff. Maybe they were killed at the graves site. Would a jury really be obligated to deem him not guilty?

    I appreciate your patience- it’s my first opportunity to respond, which is lengthy, but it is an intelligent question and I wanted to respect you/it with my full answer.

    While motive is not required, it is the State’s burden to provide admissible evidence to its case in chief- State law requires identification of special circumstance of lying in wait (in this case) or torture as an example for a first degree murder charge (v manslaughter). As you mentioned “what if they were abducted from the home and killed at the grave sites” ? There is no charge of abduction- the theory the state intends to present is that the family was killed in the home and transferred to the grave site. That said, you now have multiple crime scenes (alleged) without being able to tie the truck(s) to the home and to the burial site. I am intentionally avoiding forensic specifics because the material is beyond gruesome, but torturing and bludgeoning to death 2 adults and 2 babies to this extent in a residence that has never yielded so much as a swing and hit (evidence of sledgehammer use) to any surface, any blood evidence, any evidence it was cleaned, and any vehicle Chase had access to is completely devoid of any evidence it transported 4 repeatedly bludgeoned bodies and stored them for 2 days is going to be fodder for a jury that there are significant holes in the states case. I do not think the State can afford to hand a jury, in CA in particular, a capital case that hinges on a concept that it had to be Merritt based on him stealing funds to the exclusion of anyone else, or any co defendant because I do believe Merritt was involved, but I do not believe the State has this theory correctly and I believe it is because they have identified other suspects. You know who tends to identify other suspects? Defendants counsel in a jurisdiction where prosecutorial misconduct is now a felony- and Brady violations are most definitely considered misconduct in Supreme Court and bar review. Keep in mind that members of Joey’s own family are repeatedly on record stating in no way was Chase Merritt involved.

    I am hopeful that Ramos’s comments that the investigation remained ongoing over the last 3 years means the State has substantively added to the prosecutions case. There is a fair amount of info that has yet to made public I am aware of. It will likely be part of pre trial motion in September/October.

    Your very opinion that you feel convinced of a persons guilt before the trial is one of the reasons for concern here. ANY defendant is afforded the presumption of innocence until such time as they are proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by a jury of his/her peers in a court of law- subject to all of the rules of jurisdictional jurisprudence. Before you take issue with that- think about this- the US exonerated over 115 previously convicted capital cases last year due to evidentiary errors of some kind. If Chase Merritt is guilty of these heinous murders don’t we want an appellate-proof prosecution of him? Can you imagine what this family would have to go through if a verdict is overturned, etc? Don’t shoot the messenger here- this case is high profile- a quick review of several high profile criminal cases reflect mistrials and outright acquittals across the board.

    Some “soft” tangential issues to consider. Judge Smith is coming off of an over 7 month trial involving public official corruption where he recently dismissed several felony counts after testimony of the State’s “star witnesses”. Some would argue the most “damning” . Merritt’s lead attorney Raj Maline is representing one of the defendants putting him in this Judge’s courtroom nearly daily. That is invaluable prep in understanding how this court “rules” in every way.

    Disclosure- I do think Merritt was involved in some capacity, if he bludgeoned innocent tots to death like that, imo, he is the devil in man’s clothing. Please see this link, scroll down to my notes following the prelim hearing:

  13. Alli says:

    Case is finally moving forward. Jury selection is scheduled for Sept. 18 and trial tentatively scheduled for Sept. 25. Next pretrial hearing set for Aug. 25 followed by trial readiness on Sept. 25.

  14. Alli says:

    Correction to my prior post. Trial readiness hearing on Sept. 15.

  15. fischer says:

    Thanks for your thorough reply. I think I understand, somewhat. I know people are wrongly convicted all the time. This doesn’t happen as much as it used to. Forensics aren’t perfect either, there is interpretation that is subject to human error. But I’m content with believing in his guilt now as I’m not going to be on the jury. But I’m with you, it’s hard for me to believe he pulled this off alone. Maybe the murders, yes, but the rest would take monumental effort to do alone without being discovered. Sooner anyways.

  16. rose says:

    Your word suspects is plural. “I believe it is because they have identified other suspects. You know who tends to identify other suspects? Defendants counsel in a jurisdiction where prosecutorial misconduct is now a felony-” if Merritt was tangentially involved, he has a connection to said suspects. Are you ready to present yourtheory of these suspects and their tie to Mereitt?

    Quote please, for context if you will- I could not find it with a quick glance.

  17. rose says:

    Sorry for yr search.

    fischer says: July 19, 2017 at 11:35 pm

    4 posts back, Your 2nd paragr and 3/4 way thru it.

    Thank you Rose, I believe this is the snippet (full context at your previous link)

    (snip) I do not think the State can afford to hand a jury, in CA in particular, a capital case that hinges on a concept that it had to be Merritt based on him stealing funds to the exclusion of anyone else, or any co defendant because I do believe Merritt was involved, but I do not believe the State has this theory correctly and I believe it is because they have identified other suspects. You know who tends to identify other suspects? Defendants counsel in a jurisdiction where prosecutorial misconduct is now a felony- and Brady violations are most definitely considered misconduct in Supreme Court and bar review. Keep in mind that members of Joey’s own family are repeatedly on record stating in no way was Chase Merritt involved. (snip)

    I do think there will be information that becomes known to the victims family that was not previously known to them that points to the potential for Merritts involvement or AT THE VERY LEAST a person could draw the conclusion he had direct knowledge the McStay’s were dead. The rest of my very detailed comment stands, guilt or innocence should never come down to lawyering (which may distill to the ole battle of experts). Rn, I don’t know if Maline is planning the third party defense (worked for Anthony) or disproving linkage analysis 101 (your basic extrapolating impossible elements of the crime and states theory (OJ, others)- there is/was plenty to work with because if Merritt is directly involved or complicit in some way in the actual murders, there is no way I believe he acted alone.

    Death penalty cases involving a quadruple homicide with serious aggravators. A jury in that jurisdiction in particular, based on an entirely circumstantial case, where it is my belief the State has already presented an impossible crime scene, presided over by “that” Judge, led by a defense attorney who is one of 4 who basically just “whooped” the state in a 9 month trial (you don’t see post state “rests” dismissals like this in such high profile, judges will almost always defer to the jury who had to sit through all of it) makes this case a very large boulder up a very large hill.


  18. Sally says:

    Mikey killed; Chase buried. He is most likely assuming to hold tight and wait to jury as there are too many holes beyond a reasonable doubt. JMHO

    I am not sure I understand what you are theorizing Sally- if you would not mind expanding your thought.

  19. Sally says:

    HI Blink -)))

    ” ‘I am not sure I understand what you are theorizing Sally- if you would not mind expanding your thought.’
    I believe Mike McStay killed the family. I believe he had motive, opportunity, means. I believe he then called Chase to help clean up his mess, and Chase being no angel helped and later realized it wasn’t a hit. There are so many holes in the prosecution case, that the chance of Chase being acquitted are high, IMO.


    Thank you Sally. In the interest of disclosure, I developed information from private documents in this case which was turned over to prosecutors when the McStay remains were recovered. I have not shared it publicly. I respectfully disagree with you that Mikey McStay was involved in the murder of his brother, Summer, Gianni and Joseph Jr or that he had a motive or opportunity- his alibi is iron clad no matter what anyone would have you believe.

    As you are aware and have read here- the State’s case against Merritt is incredibly weak, and I happen to believe Merritt may have been involved in some capacity in the murders themselves, although there is no doubt in my mind whatsoever these murders did not occur at the McStay home- which is a critical and central element to the States case.


    In my view, this case will be decided largely in pre trial motions and rulings- it should be noted that Merritt is not even charged with any financial crimes being alleged here. Normally when I see that in a case, I wonder why the suspect is not even being charged with the crime that proves the case in chief as to motive in the first place- I become concerned about what that evidence tells us alternatively. (ie: financial records or other records now subject to discovery). I think it is a huge mistake in “that” jurisdiction with the presiding judge and Maline at the helm to think a jury is going to make the leaps it would have to based on a lack of evidence “as evidence”.

    Chase Merritt is a sociopath and a reprehensible human being. He is a creepy conman and I believe by some means he is responsible for the murders of the McStay family, but I have not seen a scintilla of evidence tying him directly to the actual murders. Joseph McStay was tortured. It is believed Summer was also raped. If both those actions are correct the elements of this crime tell a story the State is not paying attention to, or feels that its best chance to solve the case is to get Chase (through prosecution) to implicate others. Chase Merritt does not have as much of a gambling problem as much as he has a problem laundering money- acts I suspect got the McStay’s murdered.

    All I know is I pray that the truth comes out and those responsible are brought to justice.

  20. Sally says:

    Agreed 100% on Chase Merritt guilt of some sort and a ‘ reprehensible human being’. Agreed 100% on hoping the truth comes out and justice is served.

    Although I do not believe there is ever “justice” when it comes to the brutal murder of innocent children. Any human being who could bludgeon a baby is evil and soul-less, imo. God will have his day with him/them.

    Wondering if you saw the recent illegal grow bust in San Bernardino. So far, no charges filed. Thus is the climate in that jurisdiction right now.

  21. Sally says:

    YES. SAW IT!!! Insane, right!

  22. Rose says:

    you nailed the rape info.
    Sounds like a group of criminal associates.

    I do believe there were multiple offenders involved in the murder of this family, and that none of it occurred in the family home.

  23. Rose says:

    if allowed in = evidence he knew they were dead.
    But financial theft & gambling addict not = 4 violent murders.

    You know what I am super interested in? The correlating video of what exactly Merritt did at the casinos in question.
    You know what else can happen at casinos? Money laundering.

  24. Rose says:

    Right. Merritt = a Pawn of cartel members
    sent back to work?
    Amy chance someone involved
    in the fountain business was
    engaged in $ laundering?
    anyway, both the murders & rape
    were quite depraved. Suggests not
    merely a group but violent criminal mores.

  25. Rose says:

    interesting the multiple offenders directed stooge Merrit to
    take car to border. maybe someone(s) hooked a ride. DHS, such
    as it is, needs to reexamine all crossing photos that day & next for known violent
    criminal cartel soldiers.

    I think the facts of the case, to include cell pings of the phones/vehicle location will be a central focus in establishing involvement of multiple people/locations. In my experience in criminal defense work, when discovery subpoenas from what should really be reciprocal data ( cell phone carriers) are ignored, objected/quashed it is usually something to do with how one of the parties intends to offer it in support of a theory or how they intend to interpret it.

    I do not think at this level we are talking about the cartel. I believe Merritt’s associations to be more local.

    The thing is- I am not sure it behooves Merritt’s defense to proffer anything that only ends up inculpating him similarly (age old problem and now a link to co-defendants.

  26. Rose says:

    So who local, in addition to Merrit, could have a money laundering motive?
    PS did McStay’s father gamble? Didn’t he cover Merrit’s debts for same?

    Rose- I have interviewed Mr. McStay off the record at length so I am going to defer on that question if that’s ok. Additionally, I did some analysis of case file materials I have not published as I expect that content to be part of the discovery.

    Reminder – Merritt is not charged with any financial crime here. I have not heard it yet, but one can make the “ends of justice” argument all they want- but the reality is in order to use the quickbook account as evidence (business record) it has to be corroborated by it’s owner not just as to its possible entries- but who had access, whether or not the monies accessed were actually owed to Merritt (I say this because I can tell you plainly evidence exists that these transactions were already reviewed against work preformed After the fact- and at least one witness told me Merritt preformed on that contract and I have reviewed the correlating contracts and PO’s personally). My point- as a juror if the money is the motive aspect of this crime- I am wondering why that individual is not being charged accordingly and as is already the subject of pre trial motion- that quickbook data is one big hairy hearsay sandwich that cannot (and will not, SMith is relentless about admissible evidence) be offered as truth of the matter asserted. Once again, ultimately the issue is going to be what I have said from the beginning- and is critical circumstantial evidence against Merritt- is that what that evidence shows to ANYONE is that Charles Merritt knew Joey was dead, ergo he knew the family was dead. I believe he was involved in some capacity for sure, but I do not believe he acted alone and I do not believe Joey ever made it back to the Fallbrook home personally.

    I will say that I was simply putting out the possibility that it is not at all uncommon for casinos (in particular a few associated with Merritt visits) for laundering purposes.

  27. Rose says:

    Do you think the murder was bcz
    the “local(s)” tried to get $ owed out of McStay,
    just bcz they thought he had some?

    No. I think it had to do with an association through Merritt, I am not sure if Joey knew about it or not.

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