The man accused of murdering a Fallbrook family found buried in the desert requested to represent himself in court during an early hearing, claiming he only had six to eight months to live.
Charles Merritt, a former business partner of Joseph McStay, is accused of killing McStay along with Sunny McStay and the couple’s two boys in 2010.
Merritt said he wanted to represent himself for two reasons. He said he only has six to eight months to live due to congestive heart failure and could not afford his own attorney. The San Bernardino judge said Merritt could act as his own attorney.
He said he believes he can work around the clock to move the trail process along faster than his own attorney could. The judge offered a court-appointed attorney at no cost, but Merritt declined.
In a prior hearing, a San Bernadino judge denied a request to unseal search warrants in the case of a Fallbrook family found buried in the desert.
NBC 7 is one of 18 news organizations seeking release of search warrant documents related to the case against Merritt.
The judge would not unseal any portion of the search warrants the media requested, arguing that the release would impede on Merritt's right to a fair trial and would impede an ongoing investigation.
The judge said, however, that he was willing to revisit the case in the future. Some of those documents the media is requesting could be released after a preliminary hearing or sooner, the judge said, if the preliminary hearing is delayed.
The Fallbrook family was believed to have vanished. Family members and other volunteers searched for any sign of them, crime cable shows highlighted their story and an investigation was launched by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.
It wasn’t until November 2013, that the family’s bodies were uncovered in Victorville.
The media argued in court that the public has a constitutional right to see search warrant documents and learn more about the investigation, now that Merritt has been arrested and formally charged with the crimes.
But prosecutors strongly disagreed in court. Deputy District Attorney Mark Vos argued the release of the documents could harm what that he characterizes as a continuing investigation and an “open murder case”, despite earlier statements by the San Bernardino Sheriff that Merritt is the only suspect in the case.
The judge set a status conference in two weeks for February 20. A pre preliminary hearing is scheduled for April 3 and a preliminary hearing is scheduled for April 7.