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McStay family remains found in California; mystery deepens

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(CNN) — The search is over for a California family who disappeared under mystifying circumstances three years ago.

Authorities confirmed the identity of two of four sets of remains found Monday in the California desert near Victorville as those of Joseph McStay and his wife Summer, San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon said Friday.

They were identified through dental records, he said. Two other remains found nearby are believed to be those of their sons Joseph and Gianni, McMahon said.

He said positive identification will be done through DNA testing.

The four were killed, McMahon said. No suspects have been identified and the sheriff did not elaborate on how they died.

Some family members became emotional during Friday afternoon’s news conference.

“It gives us courage to know they are together, and they’re in a better place” said Joseph’s younger brother Mike McStay, choking back tears. “It’s been a tough road”.

A motorcyclist reported finding possible skeletal remains Monday in an area not far from Interstate 15 near Victorville, according to the Sheriff’s Department.

Police found two shallow grave sites, with two sets of remains in each grave, McMahon said.

February 4, 2010 was the last day anyone saw the family or heard from them. When police entered their Southern California house more than 10 days later, they found eggs on the kitchen counter and bowls of popcorn in the living room. Their two dogs were also in the home. But not a single trace of the McStays.

The McStays lived in Fallbrook, about 18 miles from the Pacific Coast and some 50 miles north of San Diego.

The family’s locked and abandoned Isuzu Trooper was located February 8, 2010, in San Ysidro, California, just two blocks from the border. Surveillance video taken that night shows a family fitting the description of the McStays walking into Mexico. But from there the trail goes cold.

The sheriff said his office said it will look at this crime from the beginning, and will work with the FBI to find the suspects.

Although investigators said someone had been researching travel to Mexico on the family’s home computer, the McStays’ sudden disappearance and the fact that their credit cards and bank accounts went unused raised suspicions.

When they disappeared three years ago, Joseph was 40, his wife, Summer, was 43, and their children were 4 and 3 years old.

“I’ve been in this business for over 35 years, but I’ve never seen anything like this,” Lt. Dennis Brugos of the San Diego Sheriff’s Department told CNN shortly after the disappearance.

The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2013 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.


  • Tea

    Is it really true that Joey filed a complaint with San Diego CPS against his eldest son’s stepfather, that the stepfather was abusing the child?

    One old website has a comment that on the day before the family’s disappearance that Joey had received a letter from San Diego CPS stating that they had investigated and that they found that there was no basis for Joey’s complaint?

    Another post states “Another dynamic is that Joseph had a 10 year old son (previous wife) and Joseph and Summer had been filing a CPS case against the kid’s stepfather who has a long rap sheet! Supposedly he was furious with the lies Summer was telling Child Protective Services and he was out for blood.” http://www.mixedmartialarts.com/mma.cfm?go=forum.posts&forum=2&thread=2179039&page=15

    Didn’t Joey make a complaint to CPS that his eldest son was abused by the boy’s step-father. Another old website states that Joey received a letter the day before he disappeared that CPS had investigated and found no basis for the complaint even though:

    Michael James McFadden: Orange County Superior Court website shows felony convictions for: 245(a)(1) PC 7/16/1998 Pled Guilty 1/18/2000 and also a 422 PC 7/16/1999 Pled Guilty on 1/18/2000 PC 245. (a) (1) Any person who commits an assault upon the person of another with a deadly weapon or instrument other than a firearm or by any means of force likely to produce great bodily injury shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years, or in a county jail for not exceeding one year, or by a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars ($10,000), or by both the fine and imprisonment.
    PC 422. (a) Any person who willfully threatens to commit a crime which will result in death or great bodily injury to another person, with the specific intent that the statement, made verbally, in writing, or by means of an electronic communication device, is to be taken as a threat, even if there is no intent of actually carrying it out, which, on its face and under the circumstances in which it is made, is so unequivocal, unconditional, immediate, and specific as to convey to the person threatened, a gravity of purpose and an immediate prospect of execution of the threat, and thereby causes that person reasonably to be in sustained fear for his or her own safety or for his or her immediate family’s safety, shall be punished by imprisonment in the county jail not to exceed one year, or by imprisonment in the state prison.

  • Tea

    So no one can say the last post is out of context, here is the rest of the charges filed and their dispositions on Michael James McFadden per the online case index of Orange County:

    459/460(a) PC – Burglary 07/16/1998 02/25/2000 Dismissed
    422 PC – Assault 07/16/1998 02/25/2000 Dismissed
    273.5(a) PC – Domestic Violence 07/16/1998 02/25/2000 Dismissed
    12022.7(d) PC – Infliction of great bodily injury on a child under the age of five … 07/16/1998 02/25/2000 Dismissed
    422 PC – Assault 07/16/1999 02/25/2000 Dismissed
    240 PC – Attempt to inflict violent force on another person. 07/16/1999 02/25/2000 Dismissed
    245(a)(1) PC – Assault with a deadly weapon other than a firearm 07/16/1998 01/18/2000 Pled Guilty
    12022.7(d) PC – Infliction of great bodily injury on a child under the age of five… 07/16/1998 02/25/2000 Dismissed
    422 PC – Criminal Terrorist Threat 07/16/1999 01/18/2000 Pled Guilty
    664-187 PC – Attempted Murder 07/16/1998 02/25/2000 Dismissed

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