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Trial begins in McStay family murder case

Posted at 2:45 PM, Jan 07, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-07 20:49:31-05

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (KGTV) -- Prosecutors said Monday that a California man killed his business partner and his family out of greed, according to the Associated Press.

Prosecutor Sean Daugherty told jurors that Charles Ray Merritt wrote checks totaling more than $21,000 on his partner’s QuickBooks account after the family disappeared.

The comments came during opening statements in the trial for the alleged murders of Joseph McStay, Summer McStay and their three and four-year-old sons. Prosecutors also say that, while being questioned about the family’s disappearance just days after they went missing, Merritt kept referring to Joseph in the past tense.

Outside the courtroom, defense attorney Rajan Maline said Merritt’s livelihood depended on McStay being alive.

The McStays disappeared from their Fallbrook home in early February 2010. Days after they were last seen, the family’s SUV was found abandoned at a strip mall parking lot in San Ysidro.

RELATED: Trial set to begin in McStay family murder case

In 2013, the bodies of the family members were found in the Mojave Desert, near Victorville. Prosecutors said the family died from blunt-force trauma to their heads. Authorities found a sledgehammer, believed to be the murder weapon, in one of the graves.

According to court documents, investigators believe Summer McStay may have been raped before she was killed.

Merritt was arrested in connection with the killings in November 2014 after sufficient evidence linking him to the case, including DNA, was discovered.

Authorities alleged Merritt killed the family members inside their home and then buried them in the desert. Merritt also tried to paint over the crime scene, according to authorities.

During Monday’s opening statements, jurors in the San Bernardino County courtroom are expected to hear a tape of Merritt being questioned by investigators.

Merritt, 61, has pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and is being held without bail.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in the case.