Once again the preliminary hearing for the man accused of killing a Fallbrook family of four was postponed Friday, set to pick up next month, if all goes according to plan.
Charles 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 February 2010.
Originally, Merritt had chosen to represent himself in the case. However, at his scheduled pretrial onTuesday, Merritt revealed he was considering hiring an attorney.
Due to his change of heart, Tuesday’s pretrial was delayed. On Wednesday, attorneys confirmed Merritt had hired a legal team to represent him from the Mettias Law firm.
On Friday, a judge ruled the preliminary would be postponed once more so the defense could have enough time to review the evidence. Also, the prosecution, Deputy District Attorney Sean Daugherty, was unable to present Friday because two investigators were absent from court.
Both sides requested a continuance and were granted it. A judge set a date of June 12 for Merritt’s readiness hearing and June 15 for the preliminary hearing.
At Merritt’s pretrial, prosecutors are expected to reveal never-before-seen evidence in the McStay family murder case that baffled officials for years, including expected testimony from detectives and other witnesses about the evidence against Merritt.
Until now, Merritt had chosen to act as his own attorney because he said he’s suffering from congestive heart failure and only has months to live. He claimed representing himself would allow him to move the case quickly to trial and prove his innocence.
Now, Merritt’s legal team – including attorney Jimmy Mettias – will need to study thousands of pages of evidence linked to the case.
In a press release issued Wednesday, Mettias stressed the importance of “moving this case along quickly,” despite these recent delays.
“It is clear Mr. Merritt desires this matter to move forward quickly and without any further delay. As such our team has committed to moving this case along quickly. Nevertheless, while moving the case along quickly is important it is even more important to ensure that all the alleged evidence and lack thereof is examined closely and analyzed carefully,” the release said.
“Even a cursory review of the various documents and discovery confirm our position and belief that Mr. Merritt is innocent,” he added.
The delays this week are not the first time legal proceedings in this case have been slowed.
In early April, Merritt’s pretrial hearing was also postponed because, at that time, he was still representing himself and a judge ruled he was not ready to act as his own attorney in the case that could result in the death penalty.
Merritt’s legal switcheroo is one of many twists and turns in the mysterious case of McStay family killings.
The Fallbrook family was reported missing on Feb. 4, 2010.
The case of their disappearance stumped the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department: a family of four vanished from their California home, leaving eggs to rot in the kitchen, their dogs without food and freshly-made popcorn on the counter.
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. In February 2015, Merritt complained to a judge that he wasn’t receiving the documents needed for him to act as his own 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.
After Merritt’s preliminary trial occurs, a judge will decide if there’s enough evidence to send Merritt to trial.