UPDATE: Bodies Found In Two Shallow Graves, Investigators Say McStay’s Were Murdered


Photos: National Center For Missing and Exploited Children

Joseph McStay, 40, his wife Summer, 43, Gianni, 4, and Joseph, 3, vanished without a trace on February 4, 2010 from their home in California.

The San Bernandio County Sheriff, John McMahon announced Friday four bodies have been located in two separate shallow graves.  Two of the adult bodies are positively identified as Joseph and Summer.  It is believed the bodies of two children are Gianni and Joseph, but investigators are still working on a positive identification on the children.

Sheriff McMahon said during a press conference, the shallow graves were discovered by an off road motorcycle rider on Monday.  Since then, investigators and the corner’s office have been working to secure the scene, collect evidence and identify the remains.  McMahon said, “The remains were in a shallow grave, primarily intact, as a result of animal activity there were bones outside the grave site.  The remains were in two separate shallow graves, two sets of remains in each grave.  There is no indication this is cartel related. There is investigative evidence at the scene.”  At this point the investigation is on-going and authorities do not know who committed the murders.

Joseph’s brother, Michael McStay, was present at the press conference, along with other family members when authorities made the announcement.  Michael was very emotional and spoke briefly saying, “This is not really the outcome we were looking for, but it gives us courage to know that they are together, and they are in a better place.  I know my father, who is in Texas and my Aunt Carol, and it’s been a tough road.  So we would ask that you give the family members their space and let us go through the grieving process.  My family appreciates all the support and love that we’ve been shown.  They are a loving family and um, I know that all of America loves the McStay’s and find this individual or individual.  I know the Sheriff’s, FBI, everyone wants to bring this to justice.”

For many months, authorities believed the consensus through law enforcement was the McStay family left on their own free will to go to Mexico.  The family left behind their jobs, money, friends, home and most importantly… their loved ones.

I’ve spoken to Michael McStay, Joseph’s brother on a number of occasions over the last few years. He’s never given up on his brother, Summer or his nephews, even launching a website with his continuous efforts and updates. Michael has always believed his family would never leave on their own free will, and somewhere along the line, they may have been met with trouble.

On April 9, 2013, on the website, Michael says he received a call from investigators, “This morning at 8:30 a.m. my phone rings with a number I clearly recognize as the lead Detective on the case. He assured me that a Press Release was being conducted ‘as we speak’ and he read off to me what was to be said. SDSD has been very supportive throughout this whole ordeal and clearly wants to resolve our missing family person’s case. The FBI has always taken part in our case because there are small minor children involved. The portion of the FBI that investigates missing children has been assisting SDSD from day one. I know that my mom and I are happy with SDSD and are optimistic with the resources that the FBI brings to the table. We simply want to know what happened to our missing loved ones. We are grateful that there has been so much love and support the past 3 years.

Here are FIVE fast facts about the case:

1. Who reported the family missing? Michael McStay, Joseph’s brother reported his loved ones missing to police 11 days after they vanished. He went first on February 13, then again on the 15. Not only was the family gone, but their two dogs, Bear and Baby Bear were left in the backyard without food or water. Michael has been a constant presence in this case, always helping and doing anything he can to find answers.

2. Theory about Mexico: Authorities said they found e-mails from Joseph and Summer asking about passport information and entry into Mexico before February 4, an indication they may have planned their getaway. But the question is, why? It does not appear the family had any financial or marital problems, Joseph left behind his teenage son, house and many family and friends. Michael never found any goodbye notes, he had a commercial fountain business and they were excited about the new home they just moved into.

3. What did the family leave behind? Investigators say along with the family pets, eggs were left on the counter, rollers and paint cans were out as if they were in the middle of painting, and a large sum of money was in Joseph’s bank account.

4. Family Car Discovered: On February 8, 2010, the McStay’s white Isuzu Trooper was found near the Mexican border in San Ysidro. Michael said he has video from his brother’s neighbor of the evening they left their home. “The car was backed into the driveway, and it was making a left out (of the driveway), you cannot see who is in it, they pulled out at 7:47 p.m., and his last phone call was 8:48 p.m.; they could have been running out for food, they could have been running somewhere to pick up something from Craigslist,” said Michael. Sometimes Summer bought and sold items on the Internet.

5. Possible Surveillance: Investigators say they “may” have the family on video crossing over the Mexican border, but unfortunately the footage is not clear enough to say for certain if it is the McStay family. According to police, there are two adults and two children seen walking across the border around the same time the family vehicle was abandoned. A team of volunteers from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and police experts spent days combing through hundreds of hours of video trying to locate the family. Michael said, “I cannot make ID from the border crossing tape, I cannot say 100% that it is my nephews. If there is not foul play at the house or in the car, there could be foul play elsewhere.” The video in question is below:

If you have any information, please contact Crimestoppers: 888-580-8477

Connect with Michelle: @michellesigona


  • Kelly

    Horrible. I was hoping that they’d be found alive.

  • moonwork2013

    horrible; i’m wondering if the children were killed at the same time as the parents; why put the children in another separate grave except for staging of the above video?

    • Wendy Barnes

      What do you mean?

      • AKM

        I THINK what Moon means is: Maybe the killer(s) staged this video. Wanting to be sure that what seems like a father, a mother and two small children were walking across the border, they maybe had already killed the parents (the McStays) and buried them where they did. Kept the kids alive long enough to stage the video. THEN afterward, killed the two kids and buried them near the parents. So sad.

  • Daddd

    I have lived off Hwy 15, ( The road that they were found near). It is so remote it is a hard to believe the were found. It goes from the Vegas to Mexico and then some. Thousands of square miles of nothing, in many places. It is an old mob body dump, as bad as the swamps on the East coast

    • Wendy Barnes

      Do you think the location lends credibility to the theory that perhaps they saw something they wish they hadn’t seen and were killed by drug smugglers, dealers, etc.? The articles made it sound like it was off of a busy road.

      • Daddd

        Good point! It’s Meth Country, not so dealers, but manufacturing, where they lived and found the bodies. Heavy smuggling where they car, boats I would think. A bullet train from Vegas To San Diego is in the planning stage. Lots of empty land.

    • Rusti Mccollum

      Whoever DID this escaped to Mexico..

  • j23o

    Has it been ascertained how they died?As I live in the uk how far from the border where they killed?how far from the crossing was the car left?It can’t be them in the video surely because the killers would be with them.Why not drive over the crossing?There’s an undiscovered motive here,common sense tells me that.

    • Kiki Paulino

      Far. Over 150 miles, a 2 1/2 to 3 hour, or maybe more, drive depending on traffic. This highway is heavily used and goes through many major cities. It gets less traveled once you pass through the city of San Bernandino. Now days the 15 is a busy highway, even through the Victorville area.
      Hopefully they will find something through the use off traffic cameras.

  • Rusti Mccollum

    I would have to say the knew their killer. The kids knew the killer.Both were old enough to spit out names ,whoever killed this family, Had to silence everybody.Because they knew exactly who it was..

  • izzy

    Just horrible. I too was hoping they would be found alive.

  • Dfresh

    The motive wasn’t money so it must’ve been about the kids maybe a relative was going to be outed as a child molester or something and had to keep them quiet. Or maybe it was something the parents knew about illegal activities of a relative, co worker, or neighbor. And the video isn’t them noones going to smuggle kids back in when they can just get rid of em in Mexico.