For more than three years, the open-ended mystery of the missing McStay family has baffled San Diego law enforcement and captured international attention.
On Friday, San Bernardino County officials in Southern California announced a major break in the lengthy case, confirming that the Fallbrook family has been found dead.
The remains of four people were found in two shallow graves in the high desert outside of Victorville, Calif., earlier this week.
Through dental records, officials identified the two adult bodies as Summer and Joseph McStay. Investigators say the two additional bodies are believed to be those of the couple's sons, Joseph Mateo and Gianni.
Investigators said they will confirm the identity of the boys through their DNA evidence on file with the Department of Justice.
On Monday, sheriff’s investigators in San Bernardino were called to a remote, high desert area of Victorville, Calif., after a motorcyclist reported finding skeletal remains. The very remote location of the gravesite was approximately 50 yards from the nearest road.
When investigators analyzed the scene, they discovered more bones and two shallow graves, and determined the skeletal remains were human. Officials said the remains were that of four people and had been there for “an extended period of time.”
On Friday, Southern California’s San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said the remains were examined by a forensic anthropologist to determine the causes of death, ages and gender.
The remains were found buried about a foot or two and were primarily intact, officials said. Investigators would not detail any injuries that may have occurred to the McStays prior to burial.
Detectives would not discuss clothing found with the bodies.
Joseph's brother Michael McStay said he is determined to find the individual or individuals who caused his relatives' deaths.
“It’s not really the outcome we were looking for,” Michael McStay said, fighting back tears. "But it gives us courage to know that they’re together and they’re in a better place.”
“It’s been a tough road. We would ask that you give the family members their space and let us go through the grieving process.”
He was there for the announcement along with his wife Erin, his mother Susan Blake, Summer’s mother Blanche and her sister, Tracy Russell.
“My family appreciates all the support and the love we’ve been shown,” he said sobbing. “They are a loving family and I know that all of America loves the McStays.”
“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 added.
The McStay family vanished February 4, 2010 and have been the subject of an ongoing investigation by the San Diego County Sheriff's Department and the FBI.
A group of four people resembling the McStays was captured on grainy surveillance video crossing into Mexico at the San Ysidro border crossing on February 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.
Since the family vanished, their story has been featured across national news media and on TV shows such as “America’s Most Wanted” and “Disappeared.” Earlier this year, the Fallbrook family was the subject of a book titled, “No Goodbyes: The Mysterious Disappearance of the McStay Family,” by author Rick Baker.
Over the years Michael McStay has managed and updated a website documenting the bizarre case and ongoing search for his relatives.
When asked if the McStay's may have been the victim of Mexican cartels, San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon said, “It’s too early to tell if it’s cartel-related or any other suspects.”
On Friday, the San Diego County Sheriff's Department issued a statement saying the San Bernardino Sheriff's Department would continue to lead the investigation into the remains. The San Diego County Sheriff's Department and FBI will assist with their efforts. The investigation remains active, according to officials.
More NBC 7 stories:
- Author: Killer Staged McStay Family Car
- Timeline: McStay Family Mystery
- Marines Died Making Firing Range Safer for Comrades
- Marine Killed at Camp Pendleton Remembered as "Great Man"
- Calif. Craigslist Ad: "Ghost Town with Liquor License"