Hearing delayed in McStay family murders - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Hearing delayed in McStay family murders

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Jan. 30, 2015, file photo: Charles Merritt sits in a San Bernardino, Calif., courtroom accused of killing four members of the McStay family.  (James Quigg/The Victor Valley Daily Press via AP, File) Jan. 30, 2015, file photo: Charles Merritt sits in a San Bernardino, Calif., courtroom accused of killing four members of the McStay family. (James Quigg/The Victor Valley Daily Press via AP, File)
In this Nov. 20, 2013, file photo, residents of Victorville, Calif., and surrounding communities place crosses near the graves where the McStay family was found in Victorville, Calif. In this Nov. 20, 2013, file photo, residents of Victorville, Calif., and surrounding communities place crosses near the graves where the McStay family was found in Victorville, Calif.

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (AP) — A preliminary hearing was postponed Tuesday in the case of a man accused in the deaths of four members of a California family who mysteriously disappeared from their home.

San Bernardino County Superior Court Judge Michael A. Smith delayed proceedings until Friday because the prosecutor was sick and defendant Charles "Chase" Merritt, 58, may retain a defense attorney.

Merritt, who has been representing himself, also arrived at court without his case file because of a jail mix-up. He has denied the charges.

The preliminary hearing, which will determine if there's enough evidence to send the case to trial, could reveal what prosecutors believe the motive to be.

Joseph McStay, 40; his wife, Summer, 43; and their sons, 4-year-old Gianni and 3-year-old Joseph Jr., vanished in February 2010.

The family's skeletal remains were discovered three years later in a shallow desert grave in Victorville, nearly 100 miles north of their San Diego County home.

Merritt was a business associate of Joseph McStay, who designed and installed home water features. Merritt owned a waterfall company.

When Merritt was arrested in November, authorities said they believed the family was killed in their Fallbrook home on the day they disappeared.

[READ RELATED ARTICLES: McStay Family Murdered: Related Stories, Videos & Links]

In a jailhouse interview last year with Los Angeles news station KABC-TV, Merritt said he was innocent and the evidence he had reviewed did not connect him to the gravesite or the scene of the killings.

The case initially baffled investigators and prompted San Diego County sheriff's deputies to launch what they called their most extensive missing-persons search ever.

Four days after the family vanished, their white Isuzu Trooper was found at a San Diego shopping mall near Tijuana, Mexico. A dark surveillance video showed four people walking across the border.

Authorities initially thought they might have been the McStays but later discarded that theory.

Investigators said there were no signs of forced entry at the family home or in their SUV.

Nothing was missing from the home, and the couple's credit cards and tens of thousands of dollars in bank accounts were untouched.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press.


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