Charles Merritt has been sentenced to death for killing the entire McStay family in a bizarre California case that went unsolved for years.
According to KTLA Merritt, who had been a former business partner of Joseph McStay, received the sentence on Tuesday, January 21.
In the shocking crime that occurred ten years ago, Joseph, his wife Summer, and their 4- and 3-year-old sons, Gianni and Joseph Jr., are believed to have been bludgeoned to death with a sledgehammer. Their bodies were discovered buried in shallow graves in the California desert.
For a long time, the McStay family members were all considered missing persons after disappearing from their home in February 2010.
Their disappearance was widely reported on national news stations and on such true crime shows as America's Most Wanted, Disappeared, and Nancy Grace.
Speculation flew that the McStays had left their house voluntarily, because investigators found searches on the family's computers for, "What documents do children need for traveling to Mexico?" and Spanish language lessons.
Also, the family's car was found near the Mexico border.
But their bodies were found in November 2013 by a motorcyclist in the Mojave Desert.
Merritt was arrested the following year, and convicted of murder in June 2019.
San Bernardino County Superior Court Judge Michael Smith upheld the jury's recommendation of death following a two-day sentencing hearing that lasted more than ten hours.
Merritt's attorney accused prosecutors of misconduct, among other motions that were denied.
“I loved Joseph," Merritt claimed in court. “He was a big part of my life and my family’s life. I would never have hurt him in any way. I would have never raised my hand for a woman or child. I did not do this thing."
However, Joseph's mother, Susan Blake, called him “a despicable, evil monster.”
“How could you beat two precious little babies? How scared were they…? Crying for Mommy and Daddy?...you are a low-life baby killer," Blake told Merritt.
According to prosecutors, Merritt was the last known person to have had contact with Joseph, and the first to notice his disappearance.
According to state records, Merritt had previous felony convictions for burglary and receiving stolen property.
Prosecutors told jurors Merritt killed the family after learning Joseph was cutting him out of his business making and selling custom water fountains.
The businessman reportedly believed Merritt was stealing from him.
Police said Merritt's cellphone was traced to the area where the bodies were found.
Judge Smith ordered Merritt transferred to San Quentin State Prison until an execution date is scheduled.
No one has been put to death in California since 2006, when Clarence Ray Allen was executed for the murders of three people.
CA Gov. Gavin Newsom has placed a moratorium on executions while he's in office.