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Chasing a Killer

Aired May 2, 2015 - 23:00   ET


JOSEPH MCSTAY: First bike ride ever.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Exactly five years ago, the McStay family mysteriously vanished.

PATRICK MCSTAY, JOSEPH MCSTAY'S FATHER: 10:39 a.m. that morning I spoke to Joey on the phone, that everything was fine.

GINA WATSON: Immediately, I thought like something terrible has happened to them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 911 emergency...

KAYE: With few clues, no answers. The case grown cold.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I found what looks like...

KAYE: Until the mystery turned down to be murder.

MICHAEL RAMOS, SAN BERNARDINO DISTRICT ATTORNEY: That's everything that we know, they were brutally murdered.

KAYE: A year ago, we talked exclusively to Chase Merritt then a concerned McStay family friend.

CHASE MERRITT, JOSEPH'S FRIEND: Joseph was my best friend. He was incredible.

KAYE: Now charged with killing them all.

JOHN MCMAHON, SAN BERNARDINO SHERIFF: This is a cold and callous murder of an entire family.

KAYE: Following our investigation, the evidence, the arrest, the accused.

MERRITT: I have a past.

KAYE: In his own words.

You were the last person he saw.

MERRITT: I'm not definitely the last person he saw.

KAYE: Chasing a killer inside the McStay family murder. Sunny, Southern California, the beaches, the surfing, the stunning pacific sunset.

J. MCSTAY: Yup, another beautiful day in paradise, Southern California.

There's mom again.

KAYE: A magical place to many, including newly weds Joseph and Summer McStay who called this beach side community home.

J. MCSTAY: We really pier, paradise.

KAYE: In 2007, the McStays and their two young sons, Gianni and Joey Jr. appeared to have it all.

SUMMER MCSTAY, JOSEPH'S WIFE: It's fun. I'm having so much fun.

KAYE: Love, family and a promising new business.

P. MCSTAY: All Joey wanted ever be is was an entrepreneur until and work for himself.

KAYE: A dream that became a reality says his father Patrick when Joseph got an idea while running a gift shop.

P. MCSTAY: He called me one day and he said, "Dad, I'm selling these fountains for $224 of piece." And he said, "Dad, I can do better." I said, "OK. $224, how much does it cost you to make it?" He said, "22 bucks." I said, "You're kidding me."

So he said, "I'm going to start making them in the garage, dad." And so he did. He start selling 30 over a month and it just took off from there.

DAN KAVANAUGH, JOSEPH MCSTAY'S FRIEND: He's like, "Check this out. Maybe we should try to build a site for this water fountains."

KAYE: Dan Kavanaugh built a website for what became Joseph's new waterfall company, Earth Inspired Products or IEP.

KAVANAUGH: What originally was a tiny little start up operation making nothing became eventually a successful online business.

KAYE: So successful online orders began pouring in.

GINA WATSON: I was his customs sales rep.

KAYE: Gina Watson works for a waterfall manufacturer in Florida.

WATSON: Anytime that he needed a real fancy custom job done or, you know, "across for one" we would work together on it. And so I got to know him through out the years.

KAYE: Tell me what you thought of him. What was he looked?

WATSON: Personally, very nice guy, very generous, really not easy to anger and professionally very good with customers, knew his staff.

KAYE: Joseph also knew how to spot talent and he believed he'd found it in welder Chase Merritt.

MERRITT: Joseph owned his own business and I owned mind. I manufactured costumed handle (ph) waterfalls and he bought the waterfalls from me.

This waterfall in to the understanding that you're going to have a designated switch.

We are anticipating probably a 1.5 million in sales for 2010.

KAYE: While they meet through business, the two quickly became closed friends.

MERRITT: We talked constantly. We played paintball together all the time. He came down and have dinner with me and my family once or twice a week, virtually every week. Joseph was my best friend.

KAYE: How was he to work with?

MERRITT: He is incredible. Joseph was probably one of the nicest people I have ever met. He'd give you the shirt off his back. He was just nice guy.

KAYE: So nice, Joseph soon began lending Chase money when Chase started having trouble and making end meet.

KAVANAUGH: They have a excel spreadsheet and it maintain the balance of what Chase or Joe and then Chase was like, "Oh I need three more grand for my rent." And the Joe's like, "You haven't finish the fountain yet." And he's like, "Don't worry just loan me 3Gs and then the next fountain you take it out of that like over 20 grand."

And there was just this like rolling ledger.

KAYE: Chase's debt kept climbing, creating big problems for Joseph's business.

WATSON: Joseph would take ahead if they had a chart (inaudible). If somebody wasn't happy with the work, he'd already paid Chase as part of it.

So when the chart back into the account, it only hurt Joseph and I think it totals about $100,000 worth of mistakes that Chase owed him for.

KAYE: Gina grew so concerned she warned Joseph that Chase was bad news.

WATSON: I did raised concerns about Chase that he would use materials that were cheaper or sometimes he would leave somebody high and dry without the fountain or without fixing it.

And Joseph really felt that he could control that aspect of Chase. KAYE: He didn't seem to have any concerns at the time?

WATSON: No. He really kind of blew me off.

KAYE: Joseph's wife Summer was no fan of Chase's either.

WATSON: I know that he wasn't fan of her. I know she wasn't fan of him.

MERRITT: Joseph loved her to death. You know, he thought she walked on the water. Honestly, I thought she was egotistical. I thought she thought her deep instinct and Joseph could do better.

KAYE: But Joseph and Summer were committed to building a life together with their two boys. And that meant moving out of their cramped apartment.

MCSTAY: They have been looking for houses for several years.

KAYE: Thanksgiving weekend 2009, the McStays finally purchased a new home outside San Diego in Fallbrook, California.

Chase Merritt helped them move in.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is this the house?

KAYE: With a brand new home and a booming new business, 2010 looked to be a promising new year for the McStays until suddenly be unimaginable happened.

February 4th, 2010, the entire McStay family vanished.

P. MCSTAY: I just knew something told me I wasn't going to see them again.

KAYE: Up next, what happened the day the McStays disappeared.

You were the last person he saw.

MERRITT: I'm not definitely the last person he saw.


KAYE: February 4, 2010. When the sun rose on the McStays dream home, no one knew the nightmare that lay ahead.

S. MCSTAY: Oh, you guys see this on (inaudible).

KAYE: Summer a stay-at-home mom, was taking care of the kids while Joseph was taking care of business.

WATSON: Customer service department and our shipping had got a call from him on February 4th, just checking on an order.

P. MCSTAY: Morning of the 4th and I spoke Joey on the phone.

KAYE: But he didn't let anything was wrong...

P. MCSTAY: No, nothing was wrong.

KAYE: ... on your last conversation.

P. MCSTAY: You know, everything is fine.

KAYE: In fact things were better than fine. Joseph had just received a big paycheck for one of his fountains, $16,000.

P. MCSTAY: He was going to go to the bank and deposit a check. There was a branch of the bank right there at Rancho Cucamonga by where Chase lived.

MERRITT: We got together. We had a lot to talk about.

KAYE: Chase Merritt met Joseph for lunch at Chick-Fil-A.

MERRITT: We discussed, you know, more business that was going to be going on throughout the year.

KAYE: So he sounded like he was planning for the future.

MERRITT: He was definitely planning for her future.

KAYE: It was last the known place Joseph McStay went that day. And Chase Merritt is certain he was the last person to see him.

MERRITT: I'm not definitely the last person he saw.

KAYE: What time did Joey leave lunch?

MERRITT: Exactly what time I'm -- I don't remember. I mean I wish I did, but it was just, you know, fairly (inaudible).

KAYE: Chase does remember the handful of calls he said he had with Joseph after that lunch. The last call came at 8:28 p.m. according to Joseph cellphone records.

MERRITT: I don't personally remember that phone call. The fact is I actually have to ask my girlfriend. And she said "Yeah and you pick it up and look at it and decide not to answer it."

KAYE: Have you thought about or speculated what it might have been. Was he in trouble or was it just?

MERRITT: I mean, you know, what that's why the regret because there's a hundred different scenarios that could amend.

KAYE: Chase says he try to reach Joseph the next morning.

MERRITT: I'd left a few messages and then the voice mail ended up being full. That's when I got really concerned.

KAYE: 1,500 miles away in Houston Patrick McStay was frantic. He usually spoke to his son everyday. MCSTAY: I'm worried, what happen, did somebody hurt, you know, did they go on a trip?

KAYE: Six days would past with no sign of the McStays. Then on February 10th Chase Merritt says he went to check their home for the first time.

MERRITT: He wasn't there, he's truck was in the driveway, dogs are on the backyard with no foods, no water. I walk around the house I didn't see anything suspicious, you know, I'm just...

KAYE: Did it surprise you that the dogs are outside?

MERRITT: Very much so. So much so that I act -- I called Joseph's -- Susan, Joseph's mother and told here, there something mess.

SUSAN BLAKE, MOTHER OF JOSEPH MCSTAY: I said go down, if the dogs are there move the dog bowls, the food and the water and then we see if they really hired someone to feed the animals. Well then he go back two days later and could tell the bowls are moved, obviously they've been feed. So this is why we though they were out of town.

KAYE: Finally, eight days after anyone had heard from Joseph. Michael McStay went to his brother's house with Chase who knew exactly how to get inside the locked home.

MERRITT: Joey had pretty serious allergies so he always kept his window open, always.

KAYE: They found a mess, rotten food on the counter, popcorn on the futon, cloths toss all over the place.

MERRITT: I don't remember a great deal of it because, you know, I was in the house for maybe three minutes I think, you know, may not very long. I told Michael at the time you should probably call the sheriff department. And he's response was simply, you know, what lets wait until the end of the weekend.

MICHAEL MCSTAY, BROTHER OF JOSEPH MCSTAY: San Diego's sheriff, they have a rule anyway. After 10 days it's automatically they send out homicide.

KAYE: Could you have reported them missing and got some police action before those 10 days.

M. MCSTAY: I don't know. I don't know, maybe.

KAYE: It would take until Monday February 15th, 11 days after the family went missing, for Michael to call the sheriff's department. Investigators came to the house. Immediately alerted homicide, but chose not to seal off the scene

P. MCSTAY: They don't any tape on, a crime scene tape, any notices on the door, nothing. They just lock the house back up and they leave to get warrants. STEPH WATTS: You got a family that's missing for a week and there still not going to call it a crime scene. It was mistakenly not a crime scene, so.

KAYE: Investigative journalist Steph Watts says he's never scene a case like this one. It took San Diego investigators three days to get the warrants. Three days where anyone could come and go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The (inaudible) just told me that this is not a crime scene and I can do whatever I want.

BLAKE: Certain items that might have been really key to the big mystery why they left that house are gone.

WATTS: Touched, moved, cleaned up. It's ridiculous.

KAYE: Clues and evidence disappeared from the house, just like the family of four who once called it home.

Coming up, the first break in this case comes in unlikely place. 60 miles south of the McStay home.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I saw how this work.

S. MCSTAY: You're a master cappuccino maker.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) mommy.

KAYE: After the MsStay family disappears, their California house once filled with life, now seemed frozen in time. A paper in the drive way, shoes by the front door.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I felt bad I didn't notice anything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm shocked. I hope everything is OK.

KAYE: On February 8th, 60 miles south, police impounded a white Isuzu Trooper near the Mexican border.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was towed from the parking as abandoned.

KAYE: On the 15th, police realized the trooper belong to the McStays.

WATTS: There was nothing in that car to indicate that anything bad that happened. There was no blood splutter. There was damage to the vehicle.

KAYE: And no indication why the car was abandoned within walking distance of the border crossing. Then came evidence from a search of the McStay's home computer.

WATTS: Somebody on the McStay's home have been searching on a computer for passwords and traveling to Mexico.

M. MCSTAY: In my mind we started shifting gears. OK, they're in (inaudible) or they're in the Mexico.

KAYE: When San Diego detectives focused their research on the Mexico border, they found what seemed to be the biggest piece of evidence to date.

Tonight, where are the McStay.

COOPER: Authorities are pouring over security tapes from border checkpoints.

KAYE: A grainy surveillance tape showed the family before walking across the border on February 8th around 7 p.m. the same day the car was impounded.

Investigators believed it could well have been the missing McStay family.

JAN CALDWELL, SPOKESPERSON, SAN DIEGO SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: We had a strong reason to believe that they had traveled to Mexico.

KAYE: Jan Caldwell is the spokesperson for the San Diego Sheriff's department.

CALDWELL: We have the guy in Mexico that thought he served them. Somebody else down there actually had brought them cocktails and we did have the signings.

KAYE: While detectives pursued that theory, those who knew the McStays insisted they were wrong.

MERRITT: Joseph has a very distinct walk, number one. He walked like a duck. And the man walking across the border was walking normally.

KAYE: Did they look like Summer or the kids?

MERRIT: I told the detectives I didn't believe it was them.

P. MCSTAY: We got one camera angle of this family crossing the border but there's cameras all over the parking lots, how come that one camera down there picked them up anywhere walking in parking lot or across to the border. Come on man.

KAYE: Fearful that the sheriff's department was putting all their eggs in the wrong basket. Patrick teamed up with an old friend of Joseph, Gina Watson.

WATSON: It became, I would say almost an obsession of looking for information.

KAYE: They quickly became seasoned investigators, scouring the internet, tracking down leads, evidence that Gina believes upholds in the theory that the family voluntarily went to Mexico and there was more.

WATSON: Like all their Craigslist purchases, if a family was planning to disappear why were they buying so much stuff in Craigslist? Countertops, and microwaves, and things for the new house and that was going on all the way up until the disappearance.

KAYE: And then, there is this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The whole (inaudible) is here. (inaudible).

WATSON: What would be the need to walk across the border first of all, why not just bring your car? What would be the need to go at that time of night?

KAYE: Did you ever believe that they disappeared intentionally on their own?

WATSON: No. Immediately, I felt like something terrible had happened to them.

KAYE: But what and by whom?

J. MCSTAY: What's up dudes?

KAYE: Early on, friend and business associate Chase Merritt was on the top of the list.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Detectives are taking a close look at Joseph McStay's business relationships.

KAYE: He spoke to us in his only television interview.

MERRITT: I was the last person who saw him, so of course I was person of interest.

KAYE: Did detectives ask you if you killed Joseph McStay and his family?

MERRITT: I don't recall them asking me that.

KAYE: Nothing in that direct, nothing directly.

MERRITT: No. I don't recall them being that direct.

KAYE: And you took a polygraph test. What did it show?

MERRITT: I don't know.

KAYE: You passed the polygraph?

MERRITT: Apparently. I mean I haven't -- I kind of simply assumed, well -- apparently if that resolved any issues that they may be looking at with me.

KAYE: It didn't resolve anything for Gina and Patrick. They still had arise on Chase.

WATSON: This was one of the first things that I put together, just simply everything that I could gather on Chase. This is about the point where they could them and hold them again. The police wanted to him again and they couldn't. P. MCSTAY: I had contact with him in May of 2010 and then he disappeared.

KAYE: When chase through a surface months later, Patrick made sure to stay in touch.

P. MCSTAY: I wanted to keep in contact with him. What's the old saying? Keep your friends close. Keep your enemies closer.

KAYE: Patrick and Gina kept digging but for the San Diego sheriff's department the case gone cold.

CALDWELL: It's almost impossible to work a case without information flowing in.

KAYE: No leads, no answers to what happened to this loving, happy, family of four. But that change on November 11th, 2013.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 911 emergency, what are you reporting.

KAYE: Too shallow graves on earth in the Mojave Desert.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've found, it looks like part of a human skull.

MCMAHON: Through the use of dental records, we're able to identify the adult victims as Summer and Joseph McStay. We believe the other two sets of remains are that of the boys, their sons.

KAYE: When we come back, this new crime scene brings them closer to find who's suspect.


KAYE: For four years, Patrick McStay knew only that his family had vanished. This is where they were finally found.

P. MCSTAY: I have to see it and experience it.

KAYE: Seeing it Patrick says is crucial to catching the killer.

P. MCSTAY: It's awfully hard to imagine that somebody just out of nowhere pulling off the road and coming here and finding this and...

KAYE: Finding this place.

P. MCSTAY: Yeah.

KAYE: Do you think there was somebody who knew the area?

P. MCSTAY: I think they had to.

MCMAHON: It's not an area where we would generally patrol. It is somewhat remote.

KAYE: San Bernardino Sheriff John McMahon took over this case when the remains were found and spoke only to CNN. MCMAHON: It's somewhat unusual to find four bodies in two shallow graves right next to one another. And this one is especially rare because it's a mother, a father, and two children.

KAYE: These graves would be the key to reigniting a cold case and unraveling the mystery. San Bernardino District Attorney Michael Ramos.

RAMOS: That was a huge break because up until that time, there was really no evidence of a murder.

KAYE: Now, there were more than 100 new pieces of evidence like tired tracks nearby and clothing in a grave.

RAMOS: You're going to look and pick up anything that's anywhere near the desert that could tie an individual to it, tie a vehicle to the location, perhaps a murder weapon.

KAYE: Finding the remains and the new evidence meant learning the cause of death blunt force trauma.

RAMOS: They were brutally murdered, a horrible cold callous murder. I pray that the suffering wasn't prolonged.

KAYE: So you're saying, there is a chance that they did suffer if just to unclear even with the ones strike blunt force trauma?

RAMOS: There is a chance. Yes.

KAYE: It would have taken them sometimes to die.

RAMOS: Yes. Yes.

KAYE: From the start, San Bernardino detectives say they had their eyes on Chase Merritt. The same Chase Merritt who begun working with Joseph McStay years before.

MERRITT: Hi, welcome to your, how-to-video installing a new water feature.

KAYE: Back then, Chase Merritt was widely known as a friendly and a talented welder whose laid-back cowboy demeanor earn the trust of many, including his new business associate, Joseph McStay.

MCSTAY: I remember my first conversation with Joey about Chase Merritt. And he said, "Dad, you got to meet Chase." He said, "You'll like him."

KAYE: Many people did.

When you first met him though, what were your first impressions of him?

JERRY SMITH (PH): Extremely friendly, you know, very outgoing.

This is where Chase and I dug this. KAYE: Jerry Smith (ph), a recreational gold prospector met Chase Merritt in August 2014. He's asked us not to use his real name for his protection.

Jerry met Chase through his new career, gold mining.

SMITH (PH): My wife and I purchased a machine called the dry washer and there was a broken part. So I contacted the manufacturer and the manufacturer got me in touch with Chase.

KAYE: After Chase fixed his gear, Jerry and his wife went gold prospecting with Chase a handful of times in a high desert.

SMITH (PH): He said, "I know those areas like the back on my hand."

KAYE: But Jerry says the Chase Merritt who showed up the last time they met was noticeably different from the friendly cowboy he had come to know.

SMITH (PH): While we were standing there, Chase says to me, "You probably know who I am." And I referred back to him, I said, "Well, not really because we just met you four or five weeks ago." And he said, "Well have you ever heard of the McStay family?"

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A family of four vanishes.

KAYE: Jerry remembered hearing about the McStays on the news but had no clue Chase had any connection to them.

SMITH (PH): He said that he was Joey's best friend and his business partner. He didn't seem sad at all talking about it. He was almost kind of cold and he also went on to talk about his wife, Summer, he called her an F-ing bitch a couple of times.

And more and more, he talked about things that were going on between him and the McStay family that the more uneasy I got.

KAYE: Jerry's unease only got worst when Chase insisted they hike here, to an even more secluded area.

KAYE: So what was your gut telling you that day?

SMITH (PH): I was getting spooked, hair were standing up on my body.

KAYE: Jerry quickly hiked back to his wife, packed up his $10,000 worth of prospect being here and headed out of the desert. The next day, Jerry decided he needed to tell someone what it happened.

SMITH (PH): I made contact with the Sheriff's Department Homicide.

KAYE: What was their response?

SMITH (PH): His response to me was, that he appreciated us calling and he said helps us build like character of about somebody.

KAYE: Little that Jerry know, authorities already believe that Chase Merritt murdered the McStays. Weeks later, they made the announcement.

MCMAHON: Charles Chase Merritt was identified as the suspect responsible for the death of Joseph, Summer, Gianni, and Joseph McStay.

KAYE: Up next, how investigators find him across the (inaudible).

RAMOS: We knew where Mr. Merritt was on a daily basis for the last year.


MCMAHON: Less than a year ago, I made a promise to the family that our department would do everything in our power to solve this case. Charles Merritt was arrested on Wednesday November 5th without incident.

KAYE: Nearly 5 years after the McStay's vanished, 57 year old Charles Chase Merritt was arrested and charged for brutally killing his friend Joseph McStay, Joseph's wife, Summer and their two little boys Gianni and Joey Jr.

MCMAHON: Although we can never bring them back, I hope that these provide some level of closure.

P MCSTAY: A lot of people will say it's like lifting a ton off your shoulders. I said, "No, it was more to me like a boulder falling on me."

KAYE: Patrick McStay's heart break was made even worse by the news because like his son Joseph he had once put his trust in Chase Merritt.

P. MCSTAY: I was fool like a lot of people at first. But when I first talk to Chase on the phone and the first word out Chase's mouth were, "Joey talks about you. He talks about his dad all the time."

KAYE: But as the months passed with no sign of Joseph or his family, he grew suspicious when Patrick and Gina Watson began investigating. They learn that Chase has a criminal record stretching back nearly 40 years.

RAMOS: Mr. Merritt has some prior felony convictions. He spent some time in state prison.

KAYE: But while Chase's record shows no sign of violence, District Attorney Michael Ramos says his past is very telling.

RAMOS: It's not uncommon for somebody to take that step from the non- series, non-violent felony to one of the worst crimes that we know of, murder.

KAYE: Patrick and Gina also uncover a disturbing inconsistency about that last lunch with Joseph the day he disappeared. This is what Chase told us in his only television interview back in January of 2014. At lunch that day, on the day that they disappeared, he even express

anything that was concerning or anything he was worried about or.

P. MCSTAY: No, no. He seems happy.

KAYE: But Chase told Patrick something entirely different when the two spoke months earlier. Gina kept notes about their conversation.

WATSON: This is what he says the lunch was about that they had fought on February 4 that lunch and that they worked it out. Joseph was mad that the fountain was damaged and they've gotten a large charge back and Joseph want to fix or as Chase would owe him some of the money back and Chase had already spent the money.

KAYE: In fact, Joseph had told his father that he grown increasingly unhappy with Chase's work.

P. MCSTAY: The last year, Joey had talked about the quality of some of that's not because it slipped. And Joey wasn't happy with that. He was upset.

KAYE: Blaming Chase at that point.

P. MCSTAY: Yes, absolutely, because he was getting complaints.

KAYE: So many complaints, Joseph was questioning if Chase should be a part of his business at all.

P. MCSTAY: Joey discussed with me about in getting another welder.

KAYE: Cutting Chase out.

P. MCSTAY: Well not virtually cutting him out, giving him some competition.

KAYE: That competition Patrick says could explain if Chase did it, why he killed an innocent family.

P. MCSTAY: I guess the bottom line to me is money.

RAMOS: I can't tell you what the motive is at this point in time.

KAYE: Could it have been money.

RAMOS: I'll only say as we know we know of they were business associates.

KAYE: But Ramos will say, his team of investigators were suspicious of Chase since the McStay's remains were first discovered.

RAMOS: We knew where Mr. Merritt was on a daily bases for the last year.

KAYE: Watching him closely.

RAMOS: Watching him closely. KAYE: And the more they watched, the more red flags came up.

RAMOS: We know there had been many inconsistencies probably with the entities with the sheriff's department in our criminal investigation about with whoever he talked to, his story is all over the place.

KAYE: Including his story about that last phone call from Joseph's phone. The one Chase told us, he didn't answer.

MCSTAY: I don't personally remember that phone call.

KAYE: But that's not what Chase told Patrick.

WATSON: Patrick asked him what the last phone conversation was about meaning 8:28 p.m. that last phone call. He said it was a quick summing up of their conversation at lunch about a copper fountain that needed fixing.

KAYE: So he told you he answers that call and they talked.


KAYE: This is where one of the inconsistency of this.

And there were plenty of other inconsistencies.

Would you ever expect it that this is how it would end, in the desert like that?

MERRITT: In the desert? I had no clue.

RAMOS: Mr. Merritt was very familiar with the high dessert in my county.

WATSON: I actually ask Chase about that during a phone conversation and how odd for him and he sad, you know, to have to find all those years later that they were found 7 minutes from her sister's home, so definitely red flag.

KAYE: And then there's the McStay's house in Fallbrook.

MCMAHON: Investigators believed these murders occurred at their residents in Fallbrook.

KAYE: Murders that experts believe would have left extensive blood spatter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is no clues here, is there?


KAYE: Chase Merritt told us that he had been to the house a several times before it was sealed off. What does that telling you? Anything?

RAMOS: Well number one is were sitting here and got access. Number two, that he was there after they were missing, he had plenty of opportunity to hypothetically speaking, clean up. So he had plenty of opportunity.

KAYE: And he had the opportunity to cast doubt away from himself.

Does it surprise you that he would go to the house and be the one who show such concern and alert them missing.

RAMOS: No, we've always heard about individuals that go back to the scene of the crime, it's not something that's uncommon. It (inaudible) a way form of defense in the future.

KAYE: But while authorities are confident, they found their killer for Patrick McStay one nagging question remains unanswered.

P.MCSTAY: I mean how he supposedly loved my son. The question is why did he do this to him? And why to two little boys? I mean he could have been known as Uncle Chase.

KAYE: When we come back, the prosecution's case against Chase Merritt.

If this does go to trial, will you go?

P. MCSTAY: Oh, absolutely. I want to look at Merritt in the face.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This morning there is a major break in the case of the McStay family, four murder charges against Charles Ray Merritt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, police are calling him a cold blooded and callous killer.

COOPER: Killing a California family, burying their bodies in Mojave Desert was...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Those crimes to be eligible for the death penalty.

KAYE: November 12, 2014, Chase Merritt first day in court, the first time he response to the charges against him, not guilty. Not surprising given what he told us a year a later.

In your gut, what do you think happened?

MERRITT: I have absolutely no clue.

KAYE: Words that Patrick McStay trusted for so long.

P. MCSTAY: I trust him because my son believed him.

KAYE: Now, he sees a very different Chase Merritt.

P MCSTAY: To me he looked like a broken man. He had knew he was done.

RAMOS: When the jury hears the evidence and we put this all together for them, if they will find him guilty.

KAYE: But could the case be that solid and could one man have done it all?

RAMOS: He is the only person, the only suspect in this murder case.

WATSON: I just want to say that shocked, that -- and especially that is one person alone.

P. MCSTAY: I don't believe that. There is too much there.

KAYE: Could one person killed a family of four, bury the bodies under miles North in the Mojave Desert, dropped the car 250 miles south of the Mexico border? Could one person do all that and then return home to make it look like he was home that night to receive a phone call from Joseph McStay?


KAYE: It's possible.

RAMOS: And we have the evidence to prove that. Yes.

KAYE: How strong is that proof and how reliable is the evidence gathered at the McStay house weeks after investigator say they were murdered there?

WATTS: Tons of critical evidence could have lost in those first 15 days.

KAYE: Fifteen days when at least four people where in and out of the house.

WATTS: So many things enter that could have relevant to this case.

KAYE: Investigative journalist Steph Watts.

WATTS: We don't know if somebody that was in that house was related to or have knowledge of that crime could have removed items that could have been significant to solving this case, could have removed items that could have indicted them in this case.

RAMOS: I don't think you can seal a home for that long unless you're actually investigating a murder and at the time it wasn't.

KAYE: I mean we know that the family went in and out...

RAMOS: Absolutely.

KAYE: ... I mean, Susan McStay went in and clean the counters. She couldn't stand that their house was dirty.

RAMOS: Right.

KAYE: She threw out dirty diapers.

RAMOS: Yeah.

KAYE: Mike McStay went in and took the video card out of laptop computer and brought home the laptop computer.

RAMOS: Right.

KAYE: How frustrating is that for you?

RAMOS: If it isn't an obvious murder, murder investigation from the (inaudible) then things like that are going to occur.

KAYE: Things that could make proving Chase Merritt's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt challenging.

And how will they show that Chase, a close family and friend had motive strong enough to kill two little boys in cold blood.

WATSON: I mean just unthinkable that anybody could hurt two children like that and especially being a mom myself.

KAYE: Did it ever into who you suspected?

WATSON: The only thing I could think is that perhaps the two children knew the killer and that's why they have to be killed as well.

KAYE: A killer, investigators believe knew exactly what he was doing.

RAMOS: Premeditators and deliberate first degree murder, we truly believe that.

KAYE: District Attorney Ramos doesn't believe that this is an open and shut case though.

RAMOS: I think the biggest obstacle we've talked about it in cold cases is time, because the witness is forget, people forget the timeframes, what occurred, et cetera, some evidence that could be lost.

KAYE: But Patrick has faith in Ramos and San Bernardino investigators. He always has.

P. MCSTAY: They told me in the beginning San Bernardino, that they were going to solve this case, they were committed to that. And I knew they would.

RAMOS: Good bless him and his family. And it's usually a family member that keeps it alive, that keeps pushing. Something happened here, something is not right and he keeps it in the forefront, it keeps it in everybody's minds.

P. MCSTAY: Not only were she good on what he did, she (inaudible) Joey.

KAYE: A man who was kept the memory of his son alive with the help of a woman he know calls, his daughter. P. MCSTAY: I have to say the only person that I know in this whole thing that I could ever trust is her, you know. And she never wants to turn her back on me or betray the trust, you know.

KAYE: Trust and friendship that Patrick says he'll need as Chase Merritt goes on trial for murder, the murder of his loved ones, Joseph, Summer, Gianni and Joey Jr.

If this does go to trial, will you go?

P. MCSTAY: Yeah. Definitely.

KAYE: It's important to you.

P. MCSTAY: Absolutely. I want to look at Merritt in the face. Let me tell you what one of the detectives told me. He says that I know Patrick, I know you like me to give you 15 minutes with him, but I can't. And I say, "Yup, your right.

KAYE: What would you asked him?

P. MCSTAY: I wouldn't ask him anything. There's only one person to come out of that room.

KAYE: A father consumed by anger and sadness yet driven five years later by love and devotion.

P. MCSTAY: Why did I keep going? Why did I fight? One word, Joey, my son. I love him and he loved me and I know he was saying, "You're doing the right thing, dad. I know you'll do it dad."