SAN BERNARDINO ( — A 57-year-old man pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges linked to the murder of the McStay family, authorities said.

Charles “Chase” Ray Merritt was arrested last week in Chatsworth on four felony murder charges for the death of his 40-year-old business partner and his family.

Joseph and 43-year-old Summer McStay and their two children Gianni, 4, and Joseph M., 3, went missing nearly four years ago.

The McStays left their San Diego-area home under unusual circumstances in February 2010. Investigators said there was no sign of a struggle in the upscale home and that there were even two bowls of freshly popped popcorn in the living room.  The family also left two pet dogs behind.


McStay Family (credit:

The family’s remains were discovered on Nov. 11, 2013 in shallow graves near Highway 15 in the desert outside Victorville and later identified through dental records and DNA.

San Bernardino detectives said they went over the initial missing persons investigation done by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department and the evidence led them to Merritt.

A motive behind the murder was not released, but Merritt and McStay were involved in the water fountain business together and became friends.

Merritt, who is eligible for the death penalty, is believed to the sole suspect in the case.

He remains on no bail and a pre-preliminary/bail motion hearing was scheduled for Nov. 20.

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