Officials ID Remains of McStay Children

The remains of Gianni McStay, 4, and Joseph Mateo McStay, 3, were found alongside the remains of their parents in a remote desert area in Victorville, Calif., on Nov. 11

By Monica Garske
|  Monday, Nov 25, 2013  |  Updated 7:38 AM PDT
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McStay Family Found Dead

After more than three years of no resolve in the case of San Diego's missing McStay family, the case got a major break on November 15, 2013, when officials in San Bernardino confirmed they had found the remains of the McStays in a remote desert area.
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Officials have confirmed the remains of two children found in the desert in Victorville, Calif., are, in fact, the missing McStay children of San Diego County.

At 3:30 p.m. Friday, the California Department of Justice DNA Lab notified the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department Coroner Division that the remains have been positively identified as 4-year-old Gianni McStay and 3-year-old Joseph Mateo McStay.

Last week, the remains of the children’s parents, Joseph and Summer McStay, were positively identified through dental records.

The remains of the family of four were found on Nov. 11 in and around two shallow graves in the high desert outside of Victorville. A motorcyclist reported finding the skeletal remains in a very remote location approximately 50 yards from the nearest road.

Officials said it appeared the remains had been there for “an extended period of time.”

The family, who lived in San Diego County’s Fallbrook community, had been missing since Feb. 4, 2010, leaving few clues behind in a case that baffled San Diego law enforcement and captured international attention.

TIMELINE: The McStay Family Mystery

A group of four people resembling the McStays was captured on grainy surveillance video crossing into Mexico at the San Ysidro border crossing on Feb. 8, 2010. This was the same day a white Isuzu Trooper belonging to the family was found illegally parked at a nearby strip mall.

At the time, detectives felt it was “a very high probability” that the footage was of the missing family.

When officials showed the video to relatives of the McStay family, some recognized the white jacket the woman in the video was wearing. However, other relatives said they weren’t sure it was the McStays due to the poor quality of the video.

Since the family’s sudden disappearance, the McStays hadn't used their bank accounts, credit cards or cell phones, investigators have repeatedly said.

In April 2013, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department announced they were transferring the case of the McStay family to the FBI.

The sheriff’s department said they had “conducted an exhaustive missing person investigation in an attempt to locate the family” and hundreds of tips had been investigated without success. At that point, the sheriff’s department said they had reached a consensus that the family went to Mexico of their free will.

Until last week, there had been no major breaks in the mysterious case.

Now, the investigation has turned from finding the McStay family to figuring out what exactly happened to them.

At a press conference last week, San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon said investigators had not yet determined the cause or motive behind the victims’ deaths, including if the family may have fallen prey to Mexican cartels.

“It’s too early to tell if it’s cartel-related or any other suspects,” said McMahon.

Earlier this week, friends, family and strangers gathered at the desert site where the family’s remains were found and planted four crosses in remembrance of the McStays.

Over the years, Joseph McStay’s brother, Michael McStay, has managed and updated a website documenting the case and search for his relatives.

On Tuesday he posted a message titled “Broken and Grieving,” in which he discussed the shock his family has been experiencing, and upcoming funeral arrangements.

On Friday, minutes before San Bernardino officials confirmed the ID of the McStay children’s remains, Michael McStay posted the following message on his Facebook page:

“Coroner office called. It was confirmed. It’s the boys.”

At last week’s press conference Michael McStay vowed to find the person who caused his relatives' deaths.

“We’re going to find this individual, or individuals. I know the sheriff’s department, the FBI, everybody wants to bring this to justice. And, if it’s the last thing I do – I just want to know when it’s over,” he said.

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