The pretrial hearing for a man accused of killing the McStay family of Fallbrook has been postponed because the suspect – who is acting as his own attorney – is not yet fully prepared.
On Friday, a judge in San Bernardino, Calif., postponed the preliminary hearing for Charles Merritt until May 19. He'll also appear in court on May 15.
Merritt’s hearing was supposed to begin this Tuesday but the judge ruled that he is not ready to represent himself in the courtroom.
Merritt is accused of murdering his former business partner, Joseph McStay, along with Joseph’s wife, Summer McStay, and the couple’s two sons, 4-year-old Gianni McStay and 3-year-old Joseph Mateo McStay in 2010.
The Fallbrook family was reported missing on Feb. 4, 2010. The case of their disappearance baffled the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department and remained a mystery for years.
In November 2013, the skeletal remains of the family were uncovered in shallow graves in a very remote desert location in Victorville, Calif.
One year later, in November 2014, Merritt was arrested in connection with the mysterious murders.
He has chosen to serve as his own attorney because he only has six to eight months to live due to congestive heart failure and could not afford his own attorney.
A judge offered a court-appointed attorney at no cost, but Merritt declined.
In February 2015, Merritt complained to a judge that he wasn’t receiving the documents needed for his defense. He asked for prosecution discovery documents and files on a computer that was seized by investigators, according to U-T San Diego reporter Teri Figueroa.
Merritt’s upcoming pretrial hearing is expected to include key, never-before-seen evidence in the McStay family murder case.
Merritt released a written, one-page statement to the media Friday asking the media, public and law enforcement to remember the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.
The statement read:
“We all feel the gravity of this situation, in that the entire family and its counterparts have experienced a horrific act of depravity. Joseph, Summer, Joseph Jr. and little Gianni all not here to find and see their injustice.
Although law enforcement has significantly made errors in their investigation which will become abundantly clear in the trial, they are the ones who must none the less take on this grievous task of finding and bringing to justice the person(s) responsible for the death of my good friend and his family.
I only ask that we all remember in this great country there is the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. It seems that some of us including law enforcement have forgotten this very important fact.
I only beg the place for this trial is in the courtroom. Outside of which the defendant has no right to compel the attendance of witnesses or cross examine sources of evidence. To do otherwise cannot be redressed by our courts and therefore the defendant’s rights to a fair trial are destroyed. This is an evil which no defendant can contend.
My prayer is that through the upcoming trial and the devotion of all of us we will come to find the truth, and that the real killer or killers of my friend and his precious family will be exposed.
If this is accomplished I bear no malice.”