SAN BERNARDINO (CBSLA) — A jury Monday recommended death for the man convicted of killing Joseph and Summer McStay along with their two children before burying the bodies in the Mojave Desert.
The same jury earlier this month found Charles “Chase” Merritt, 62, guilty of four counts of first-degree murder in the death of the McStays and their two young sons.
The San Bernardino jurors recommended Merritt face death in the slayings of Summer McStay and the two boys, 4-year-old Gianni and 3-year-old Joseph Jr., and life without the possibility of parole in the killing of Joseph McStay, according to reports from the Los Angeles Times.
The McStay family vanished suddenly in February 2010 from their Fallbrook home, with bowls of popcorn left uneaten in their house and no sign an attacker forced their way inside. Their bodies were found in November 2013 by an off-road motorcyclist about 100 miles away in shallow desert graves in a desert area just north of Victorville in San Bernardino County.
Merritt was arrested in November of 2014. Authorities say Merritt killed the family with a sledgehammer after his business associate, 40-year-old Joseph McStay, tried to cut him out of a business making and selling custom water fountains.
Many questions remain about the killings, but prosecutors argued that evidence from the family’s car, financial accounts and cellphone towers linked Merritt to the deaths of the McStays.
While Governor Gavin Newsom has placed a moratorium on executions while he’s in office, defendants can still be sentenced to death.
Merritt is due back in court in September for sentencing.