SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. — Four skeletons found in shallow graves in the Southern California desert are believed to be those of a San Diego County family that vanished three years ago, police said Friday, resolving one mystery and raising a host of new questions about what happened to the seemingly happy couple and their two young sons.
The McStay family — 40-year-old Joseph, his 43-year-old wife, Summer, and their sons Gianni, 4, and Joseph Jr., 3 — were apparent homicide victims, San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon said.
Police now will try to piece together what led the McStays to disappear and end up 100 miles from their home, not far off heavily traveled Interstate 15 connecting San Diego and Las Vegas. The family's skeletal remains were found Monday by an off-road motorcyclist.
"It's not really the outcome we were looking for, but it gives us courage to know that they're together and they're in a better place," said Joseph McStay's brother, Michael, struggling to speak through tears as other family members sobbed at a news conference.
"I know the sheriff's and the FBI and everybody wants to bring this to justice," he said. "I just want to know when it's over. That's all."
McMahon said investigators don't know many details, including when the McStays were killed, how long the bodies had been in the desert and if they were killed there or elsewhere. Evidence at the scene included some clothing, but McMahon wouldn't say if authorities found a weapon or whether a cause of death was determined.
However, he said: "There is investigative evidence that is at the scene that will help complete the investigation."
The two graves, located about 50 yards off a dirt road, were 1- to 2-feet deep, and there were two bodies in each, McMahon said. Some of the bones had been dragged to the surface by animals, he added. He declined to say how the bodies were arranged in the graves.