A 57-year-old man who was just arrested for allegedly murdering an entire family in California four years ago started talking to the media about the case last year.
The McStay family murder case is a bizarre one. Police investigated the case as a disappearance until the bodies of married couple Joseph and Summer McStay and their two young children were found in a remote area of San Bernadino County, California in November 2013.
Police didn’t arrest anyone for the murders until recently. Authorities announced at a press conference on Friday that Charles “Chase” Merritt, a former friend and business associate of Joseph McStay, was arrested on Wednesday and is the sole suspect in the murders, which are believed to have occurred in the family’s home near San Diego.
Police aren’t yet releasing a suspected motive for the murders.
Merritt was reportedly the last person to see Joseph alive. Police interviewed him early on in the investigation, and after that, he faced years of “accusations, gossip and outright lies,” as the Daily Mail put it in a story last year.
During that interview, Merritt also called himself “the least violent man on the planet.”
The Daily Mail story from last year featured an extensive, exclusive interview with Merritt, who seemed eager to clear his name. The Daily Mail advertised that Merritt was finally breaking his silence to “reveal new clues” in the murder mystery. The interview was published amid renewed interest in the case after the family’s bodies were found.
Merritt rightly insisted that it’s unlikely the McStay family left their home voluntarily and fled to Mexico, which is one theory that began floating around after the family disappeared. Earlier in the investigation, the family’s car was found abandoned near the Mexican border.
“I told the detective back in the very beginning, that there is absolutely no way Joseph would have left without telling me,” Merritt told the Daily Mail. “He was my best friend and we told each other everything. When [the police] showed me the video of them crossing into Mexico, I told them Joseph would not go into Mexico with those kids and that the man in the footage was not him.”
The Daily Mail referred to Merritt as one of Joseph’s “closest friends and confidants” and said it was “fitting” that Merritt was the “last known person to see Joseph alive and the one who first discovered he was missing.”
Merritt told the news outlet: “I was the last person Joseph saw. He came to Rancho Cucamonga on February 4 to talk to me about a huge business deal we had going on in Saudi Arabia.
“We met for an hour-and-a-half for lunch. He was so excited. We had the Saudi Arabian project and a few other things going on. The business had never been so good and we were looking forward to the future.”
Phone records showed the last call Joseph made was to Merritt later that night after the two met to reportedly talk business.
“I didn’t answer that call and I regret it to this day,” Merritt told the Daily Mail.
Merritt said that a few days after that meeting, he drove out to the McStay home out of concern for their well being. A few days after that, he went with Joseph’s brother to check out the house, which they found empty.
Strangely, early reports said there were no signs of a struggle in the McStay family home, but police said at a press conference on Friday that the home is where they believe the murders occurred.
The day police entered the home to search for the family, eggs and a banana were found left out on the kitchen counter and bowls of popcorn were found in the living room.
Merritt is now suspected of murdering Joseph and Summer along with their children, 4-year-old Gianni and 3-year-old Joseph Jr. The cause of death is believed to be blunt force trauma.
Merritt has several prior convictions and two state prison stay on his record, according to authorities. He’s previously been convicted of burglary and receiving stolen property.
He defended these convictions in his interview with the Daily Mail: “Nine out of ten people on this planet have got some kind of criminal background. … I’m not the most perfect person in the world, I’ve made mistakes, I have even screwed people over a couple of times. I regret it, but that doesn’t give people the right to trash me, especially after I have lost my best friend.”
Merritt seemed frustrated that people suspected him of the murders, so he agreed to take a lie detector test for the police.
“I spoke to my girlfriend about it extensively and decided, you know what, I’m just going to do the damn test, so they can forget about me and focus on something that might actually help find him,” Merritt told the Daily Mail.
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