California man, 62, convicted in brutal murders of family of 4 found in desert


The disappearance of a couple and their two children puzzled California investigators for years.

The McStay family vanished suddenly in 2010, with bowls of popcorn left uneaten in their house and no sign that an attacker forced their way inside. Three years later, their bodies were found in shallow desert graves more than 100 miles away.

Now, a jury has reached a verdict in the murder case against 62-year-old Charles “Chase” Merritt, who authorities say killed the family with a sledgehammer after his business associate Joseph McStay tried to cut him out of a business making and selling custom water fountains.

Jurors’ decision came Friday after about a week of deliberations, and it will be read in court Monday in San Bernardino.

While many questions remain about the killings, prosecutors argued that evidence from the family’s car, financial accounts and cellphone towers linked Merritt to the deaths of McStay, McStay’s wife, Summer, and the couple’s 3- and 4-year-old sons.

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