Chase Merritt: 'American Greed' highlights how the murderer bludgeoned skulls of McStay family with a hammer

Prosecutors alleged Merritt had gambling issues, and he killed the family for financial motives


                            Chase Merritt: 'American Greed' highlights how the murderer bludgeoned skulls of McStay family with a hammer
The McStay family was brutally killed by Chase Merritt who used a three-pound sledgehammer (CNBC)

A happy family of four met a tragic and violent death on or near February 4, 2010. Joseph McStay, his wife Summer, and sons Gianni and Joseph Jr. aged four and three respectively, were bludgeoned to death with a three-pound hammer. The man responsible for the murder was Chase Merritt, Joseph's business partner. The murder is a topic explored in 'American Greed', the CNBC crime documentary series that is currently running in its 14th season.

Nine years after the cold-blooded murder, the jury found Merritt guilty of slaying the McStay family. He was sentenced to death on January 21, 2020, and while that came as a relief to the other members of the McStay family, the gruesome murder and the evidence found will remain etched in their minds for a long time.

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A motorist discovered four sets of human remains buried in two shallow graves which included a broken skull fragment of a small child and a rib bone in the desert near Victorville, California, among other things, and these served as pivotal pieces of damning evidence against Merritt. And although DNA tests came up futile after detectives from the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department discovered Merritt's DNA was removed from the car that was found, he was still deemed guilty by the jury.

Merritt was sentenced to death on January 21, 2020 (CNBC)

Prosecutors alleged Merritt had gambling issues, and he killed the family for financial motives. They said that he wrote checks adding up to more than $21,000 on Joseph's business account days after the family was killed. The remains were found on November 11, 2013, and two days later, it was officially reported that the decomposed evidence was Joseph and Summer McStay.

Investigators believed the family died due to blunt force trauma, although specifics were not revealed. Eventually, it was a forgery that led to the downfall of Merritt as he was adamant to erase any financial records claiming to be Joseph McStay. Merritt was sentenced to death on January 21, 2020.

Titled 'A Family Vanishes', the official synopsis for the episode reads: "When all four members of the McStay family seemingly vanish into thin air – here one day, gone the next – a years-long quest for answers begins. Then a biker in the Mojave Desert finds their bodies in shallow graves… and a close friend of the family falls under suspicion."

'American Greed' airs Monday, 10 PM ET on CNBC. 

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