SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – Greed, debt and a playing downside drove a Southern California man to kill his enterprise associate’s household with a sledgehammer and bury their our bodies within the desert, prosecutors mentioned Monday.
However the protection mentioned authorities are charging the fallacious man and the true perpetrator is one other enterprise associate.
Opening arguments have been held within the trial of Charles “Chase” Merritt.
Merritt, 61, has pleaded not responsible. If convicted, he may face the demise penalty.
Sean Daugherty, supervising deputy district legal professional for San Bernardino County, informed jurors that Merritt wrote checks for greater than $21,000 on his associate’s on-line bookkeeping account after the household was final seen alive in February 2010, the Solar newspaper of San Bernardino reported.
“Greed, and greed’s youngster, fraud” have been the motive, Daugherty argued.
Merritt is charged with killing Joseph McStay; McStay’s spouse, Summer season; and their Three- and Four-year-old sons. The household’s disappearance perplexed investigators for years, with no indicators of pressured entry at their San Diego County dwelling.
Three years later, their our bodies have been discovered greater than 100 miles (160 kilometers) away in a distant space of San Bernardino County, together with a Three-pound (1.5-kilogram) sledgehammer and a baby’s pants and diaper.
Merritt made customized fountains for McStay’s on-line water characteristic enterprise and prosecutors and sheriff’s investigators have mentioned he was in debt and had a playing downside, the Solar reported.
Merritt “desperately tried to cowl his tracks after the murders . misled investigators, talked in circles, and performed the sufferer,” Daugherty mentioned.
However Rajan Maline, Merritt’s legal professional, mentioned prosecutors ignored a chief suspect: One other McStay enterprise associate that Maline mentioned stole $7,900 from McStay’s account within the days after the household vanished.
“The one motive he did that’s as a result of he knew Joseph wasn’t coming again,” Maline mentioned.
Authorities mentioned that after the household disappeared, Merritt’s cellphone was traced to the realm close to the gravesites and to a name in search of to shut out McStay’s QuickBooks account for his water options enterprise.
However Maline argued that two different cellphone calls that positioned Merritt away from the burial website weren’t thought of.
In addition they say Merritt’s DNA was found on the steering wheel and gearshift of McStay’s SUV, which was impounded close to the Mexican border a number of days after the household vanished.
Merritt’s attorneys say McStay may have transferred the DNA to the automobile after he met with Merritt shortly earlier than the household vanished. They are saying none of Merritt’s DNA was discovered on the gravesites however DNA belonging to different unidentified people turned up there.
The McStay household disappeared from their dwelling in Fallbrook, which is about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of San Diego.
Daugherty mentioned three victims died of blunt-force trauma to the pinnacle and there weren’t sufficient stays of one of many boys to find out how he was killed, the newspaper reported.
Investigators spoke with Merritt shortly after the household went lacking and observed Merritt referred to them up to now tense, Daugherty mentioned.