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The Latest: ID of family’s killer contested in murder trial

January 8, 2019
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FILE - In this May 19, 2015, file photo,, Charles "Chase" Merritt, who is charged in the deaths of a family of four whose bodies were found three years after their disappearance, waits for his preliminary hearing in San Bernardino, Calif. Opening statements are expected Monday, Jan. 7, 2018, in the trial of Merritt for the murders of Joseph McStay, McStay’s wife Summer and their 3- and 4-year-old sons. The family disappeared from their San Diego County home in 2010. Three years later, their bodies were found in a remote desert location. (John Gibbins/The San Diego Union-Tribune via AP, Pool)

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (AP) — The Latest on the trial of a California man charged with killing a family of four (all times local):

8:15 p.m.

Prosecutors say greed, debt and a gambling problem led a man to kill his business partner and his family, then bury them in the Southern California desert. But the defense says they have the wrong man.

Opening arguments were held Monday in the trial of Charles Merritt, who is accused of using a sledgehammer to bludgeon Joseph McStay, his wife, Summer and their 3- and 4-year-old sons.

A prosecutor told jurors in San Bernardino that Merritt wrote checks for more than $21,000 on his partner’s QuickBooks account after the family vanished in 2010.

But the defense suggested the killer was another business partner. The San Bernardino Sun says attorney Rajan Maline told jurors that man stole $7,900 from McStay’s account in the days after the family vanished.

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2:30 p.m.

Prosecutors say a California man killed his business partner, his partner’s wife and their two young sons out of greed.

The Sun reports Monday that San Bernardino County prosecutor Sean Daugherty told jurors that Charles “Chase” Merritt wrote checks for more than $21,000 on his partner’s QuickBooks account after the family was last seen alive.

Daugherty’s comments came during opening statements in Merritt’s trial for the alleged murders of Joseph McStay; McStay’s wife Summer; and their 3- and 4-year-old sons.

Defense attorney Rajan Maline said outside court that Merritt’s livelihood depended on McStay being alive.

The McStay family disappeared from their San Diego County home in 2010. Three years later, their bodies were found in a remote desert location more than 100 miles (160 kilometers) away in San Bernardino County.

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1:15 p.m.

Opening statements are underway in the trial of a Southern California man accused of beating a family of four to death with a sledgehammer and burying them in the desert.

Prosecutors made opening statements Monday in the trial of 61-year-old Charles “Chase” Merritt in San Bernardino.

Defense attorneys also made statements to defend Merritt and will continue addressing the jury in the afternoon.

Merritt is charged with killing his business associate Joseph McStay; McStay’s wife, Summer; and their 3- and 4-year-old sons.

The McStay family disappeared from their San Diego County home in 2010. Three years later, their bodies were found in a remote desert location more than 100 miles (160 kilometers) away in San Bernardino County.

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12 a.m.

Opening statements are expected in the trial of a Southern California man charged with bludgeoning to death a family of four and burying them in the desert.

Lawyers are scheduled to make statements Monday in the trial of 61-year-old Charles “Chase” Merritt. He’s accused of killing Joseph McStay, McStay’s wife Summer and their 3- and 4-year-old sons.

The family disappeared from their San Diego County home in 2010. Three years later, their bodies were found in a remote desert location more than 100 miles (161 kilometers) away.

Merritt, who was a business associate of McStay’s, was arrested the following year. He has pleaded not guilty.

Authorities have said Merritt’s cellphone could be traced to the remote gravesites and to a call days later seeking to close McStay’s online bookkeeping account.

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