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Buried bodies identified as members of missing McStay family

November 15, 2013|By Rick Rojas
  • Joseph and Summer McStay are pictured with their two children, Joseph Jr. 3, front, and Gianni, 4, before their disappearance in 2010.
Joseph and Summer McStay are pictured with their two children, Joseph Jr.… (Family photo )

Two sets of skeletal remains found in Victorville this week have been identified as members of the missing McStay family, who mysteriously vanished from their San Diego County home in February 2010, a relative confirmed to The Times.

San Bernardino County sheriff's officials told a family member Thursday that the remains had been identified as Joseph McStay, 42, and his wife, Summer, 45, according to Patrick McStay, the father of Joseph McStay.

The remains of two additional bodies were also found Monday by a motorcyclist, off-roading through a remote area of San Bernardino County, near Victorville. Those bodies have yet to be identified, but Patrick McStay said he believes they are the couple's two children, Gianni, 4, and Joseph Jr., 3.

IN DEPTH: Where did the McStays go?

Patrick McStay said he has not spoken to officials directly. 

A news conference was scheduled for 11 a.m. in San Bernardino County, which San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore said he would attend.

After the discovery, sheriff's investigators excavated the site, finding two shallow graves holding the skeletal remains of four people.

Friends of Patrick McStay began sending him links to stories about the discovery on Thursday. He had a hunch early on. "I got a cold chill," he said, "and I knew it was them."

The family went missing nearly four years ago, in early 2010. When family and friends had not heard from them for several days, Joseph McStay's brother, Mike McStay, called authorities.

Investigators entering the house found no sign of a struggle. Neighbors said they hadn't seen them for days and started feeding the family's dogs.

"The bottom line," the lead investigator in the case, Troy Dugal, told The Times in 2011, "was that life was normal for the McStays up to Feb. 4, and on that day they just vanished."

At the time, Joseph was 40 and Summer was a 43-year-old stay-at-home mom, described as fiercely protective of her boys, Gianni and Joseph Jr.

Investigators found out that the family's SUV had been towed from the parking lot of a strip mall in San Ysidro, an hour's drive from the McStay's Fallbrook home and a short walk from a pedestrian crossing into Mexico. 

Investigators examined surveillance footage from the border crossing, and among the thousands who crossed the border that day, investigators saw a man holding the hand of a young boy followed by a woman holding the hand of another boy.

Patrick McStay doesn't believe his son crossed into Mexico. "My son didn't walk away," Patrick McStay told The Times on Thursday. "They didn't walk into Mexico. They would never do that."

He said he had suspected foul play early on, and has been highly critical of investigators who, in his view, have done a "lousy job."

McStay said he has been driven by anger and missing his relatives to find out the truth. "The love for my son and my grandchildren and my daughter in law — that's what kept me going. I'm not going to break down and cry. I'll do that later. The anger keeps me going."

He added: "That boy, Joey, he's my oldest son. He wasn't only my son. He was my best damn friend." 

Finding the bodies does bring a measure of closure. The mystery of where they ended up has been answered. But that's not enough for his father.

"It's far from being done yet — far from being done," he said. "It won't be done until I find out what happened, and why, and who."

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Twitter: @rar

rick.rojas@latimes.com

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