The Southern California man accused of murder in the deaths of an entire Fallbrook family is suffering from a potentially deadly health condition, his attorney said Thursday.
Joseph and Summer McStay, 43, and their two young children, Gianni and Joseph Mateo ages 4 and 3, vanished from their home in February 2010, triggering a widespread search from San Diego County to northern Los Angeles County.
More than three years later, four bodies were found buried in the desert near Victorville and a homicide investigation was launched.
Charles "Chase" Merritt appeared in a San Bernardino County courtroom for what was scheduled to be a pretrial hearing.
The judge continued the hearing to give attorneys time to exchange documents including those from the missing persons case conducted by the San Diego County Sheriff's Department.
Merritt's attorney said Thursday that his client has been diagnosed with congestive heart failure.
His client had previous health problems according to attorney Robert Ponce who speculated the stress of the case may have exacerbated those health issues.
The next hearing will be held Jan. 30 at 8:30 a.m.
McStay, 40, operated a custom decorative water fountain business and was working on a project with Merritt when he and his family disappeared.
Merritt, who has been described as the last person to see the McStay family alive, has pleaded not guilty to the charges.