The discovery of the McStay family’s remains in November 2013 brought an end to more than three years of speculation regarding what happened to them. Then began the authorities’ quest to figure out who killed the loving family of four. Investigation Discovery’s ‘Two Shallow Graves’ follows the trial of Charles “Chase” Merritt, the man who was eventually convicted of killing the McStay family. So, if you’re wondering how the police built a case against him, we’ve got you covered.
Who is Charles “Chase” Merritt?
Joseph McStay and Chase Merritt were business partners and friends. Joseph owned Inspired Earth Products, an online business that sold custom indoor waterfalls while Chase made them. The two met in 2007 when Joseph needed assistance with a water feature. In later interviews, Chase stated that they were close friends who spent a lot of time together. According to him, there were regular dinner visits and paintball sessions.
But in February 2010, Joseph, his wife, Summer, and their two sons, Gianni and Joseph Jr., suddenly disappeared. Sadly, their remains were found in two shallow graves in the desert near Victorville, California, in November 2013. In an interview, Chase talked about who could have killed them, saying, “If I were to guess, like anyone else, I would think it was probably random because I honestly don’t believe that family had anything to do with it. I don’t think that any of his friends had anything to do with it. Joseph was just too well-liked.”
The authorities then began to suspect Chase given his statements and evidence pointing to him. He claimed to have met Joseph on February 4, 2010, the day the family disappeared. Chase said they met for lunch in Rancho Cucamonga, California, to talk about the business, adding that they spoke several more times over the phone. Chase further stated that he got a call from Joseph at around 8:28 pm, but he didn’t answer.
However, the prosecution stated there was no evidence of the meeting. Furthermore, Chase had a non-violent criminal history. A closer look at the business showed that he wrote multiple electronic checks on Joseph’s business account totaling more than $20,000. Chase then spent the money at casinos. In another suspicious move, Chase printed the checks out and deleted the electronic versions in what the authorities believed was a bid to cover his tracks.
Evidence also revealed that while checks were dated February 4, 2010, metadata showed they were backdated. Furthermore, emails from Joseph mentioned Chase owed him around $42,000. Cellphone evidence placed him around the McStays’ home on February 4 and in Victorville on February 6, 2010. As per the show, Chase’s sister, who lived in Victorville, initially claimed he rarely ever visited. But while on the stand, she claimed that Chase came by often.
Where is Charles “Chase” Merritt Now?
In addition to other evidence, Chase’s DNA was found on the steering wheel and the gearshift handle of the McStay family car that was later found abandoned. However, the defense claimed that it was because of his contact with Joseph in the past. Nevertheless, Chase was arrested for murder. His trial faced delays after he fired his attorneys several times to represent himself. In June 2019, then 62-years-old, he was found guilty of four counts of first-degree murder.
In January 2020, Chase was sentenced to death. However, he maintained his innocence, saying in court, “I loved Joseph. He was a big part of my life and my family’s life. I would never have hurt him in any way. I would have never raised my hand for a woman or child. I did not do this thing.” Prison records indicate that he awaits execution at the San Quentin State Prison in Marin County, California. Since the Governor has placed a moratorium on the death penalty, Chase wouldn’t be executed anytime soon. As per the show, Chase is working on a book about the case.
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