Man Convicted Of Killing Couple, Their 2 Sons, 10 Years After Family’s Skeletal Remains Found In Desert

ID’s Two Shallow Graves will explore the controversial murder trial of Charles “Chase” Merritt.

The McStay family, pictured here in 2007, went missing in 2010 and their skeletal remains were found in 2013.

The McStay family went missing February 4, 2010 and nearly four years later, their skeletal remains were found in shallow graves in the desert. 10 years after their remains were found, Charles “Chase” Merritt was convicted of killing the family.

Photo by: Patrick McStay

Patrick McStay

By: Aaron Rasmussen

Nearly a decade after the skeletal remains of a family of four were found buried in the California desert, their accused killer was sentenced to death.

On Feb. 4, 2010, Joseph and Summer McStay, ages 40 and 43, and their two sons, Gianni, 4, and 3-year-old Joey Jr., vanished without a trace from their Fallbrook home. Family called authorities 11 days later, and police entered the home but found no clear signs of foul play.

After the McStay’s Isuzu Trooper was discovered in San Ysidro on the U.S.-Mexico border, the San Diego Sheriff’s Department theorized the McStays chose to leave the country and treated their disappearance as a voluntary missing persons case and not a crime.

Nearly four years later, however, law enforcement was proven wrong when, in November 2013, a dirt biker came across a child’s skull in the rugged Mojave Desert outside Victorville — around 100 miles from the McStays’ home, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Detectives then made the grisly discovery of the skeletal remains of Joseph and Summer and their children in two shallow graves along with a sledge hammer and an electrical cord, which was wrapped around the father’s neck.

According to police, the murder victims had been fatally beaten about their heads and faces and all died from blunt force trauma.

A year later, police arrested Joseph’s welder friend and former employee, Charles “Chase” Merritt, and accused him of committing the murders.

“I would never hurt him, never hurt Summer, Gianni, or Joseph Jr.,” Merritt has said. “He was my best friend.”

During the trial in January 2019, prosecutors insisted Merritt had a motive to kill his friend, claiming Joseph was attempting to sideline him from his custom-waterfall business, Earth Inspired Products.

The defense countered in court that all the case evidence was purely circumstantial and posited a second associate of Joseph’s also was being pushed aside and had motive to commit the slayings. The judge later said there was “no credible evidence” to suggest the second associate was ever involved in what happened to the McStays, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Over six years after the family of four lost their lives, Merritt was found guilty of four counts of murder, and, in January 2020, a judge sentenced him to death.

“The world was robbed of four beautiful souls,” Joseph’s brother, Michael McStay told the court.

For more information on this case, ID’s new show Two Shallow Graves provides a look into Merritt's explosive murder trial via unparalleled access to both the defense and prosecution teams, shedding new light on the controversial case.

Two Shallow Graves will air all seven episodes across three nights on ID starting Sunday, May 22 at 9/8c with the first three episodes. Episodes will be available to stream the same day on discovery+.

Next Up

Man Admits He Killed Girlfriend Missing For 7 Years, Leads Cops To Remains In Lake

“The person who was supposed to look out for her hurt her,” says the sister of 19-year-old victim Danice Day, a mother of two.

Michigan Man Stages Fiancée's Death In Fiery 'Car Crash'

During an interrogation, Donald Spice didn’t even attempt to claim he was innocent after police found Lori Marie Vargas’s body in a burned-out car.

After Going Out To A Local Bar, A Young Iowa Mom Was Found Murdered In A Burned Truck

An Algona, Iowa, police officer thought he was responding to a farming mishap when he realized that he was at the scene of a heinous murder.

How Two Fundamentalist Mormon Brothers Used ‘Revelation’ From God To Justify Murder

The tragic story was recounted in Jon Krakauer’s non-fiction classic Under the Banner of Heaven.

Suspect Is Finally Charged In The Cold Case Stabbing Murder of 11-Year-Old Girl

Sixth grader Melissa Tremblay was found stabbed to death in a railway yard in 1988. Now, over 30 years later, an arrest has been made for her murder.

Fugitive Jorge Rico-Ruvira, Wanted For Murder and Child Abuse, Arrested In Mexico

Jorge Rico-Ruvira was featured on 'In Pursuit with John Walsh' in the fall of 2021.

Believe It Or Not, Scott Peterson, Convicted Wife-Killer, Has Groupies

Since Peterson first got arrested in 2003, admirers have continually loaded his prison bank account with donations.

‘Happy Face Killer’ Victim Known As ‘Blue Pacheco’ Identified; Family Finally Gets Closure

Nearly three decades after her body was found, Patricia Skiple has been identified as a victim of the serial killer.

Deadly Dads: 5 Fathers Who Killed Their Own Kids

Give your dad a call this Father’s Day … and give thanks you weren’t born to one of these monsters.

‘I Know She Was Evil’: Idaho Man Endured Escalating Violence At The Hand of His New Wife

A vulnerable man found himself in the clutches of an angry woman, and her violent threats became a grim reality.