SD County Sheriff Defends His Investigators on McStay Case

San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore is coming to the defense of his investigators after the patriarch of the McStay family ripped into the department, claiming he “knew they screwed this up” just hours after an arrest was made in the high-profile deaths of his son, his daughter-in-law and his two grandsons.

Joseph McStay’s father Patrick did not mince words Friday as he criticized San Diego County investigators over their handling of the McStay family’s disappearance from their Fallbrook home in 2010.

"I knew they screwed this thing up,” said Patrick. “All the rest was just sugar coating to make it look like really were interested in solving, doing something. They did virtually nothing.”

In response, Gore told NBC 7 he understands the emotion of the moment but strongly disagreed with the censure.

"It's one thing now with 20/20 hindsight that we have four bodies that have been found a year ago up in Victorville. That's a whole different type of investigation,” said Gore.

According to the sheriff, that is the key: the discovery of Joseph’s, Summer’s and their sons’ bodies in Victorville last year.

Leading up to that, San Diego investigators were handling a missing persons case, which Gore says limits certain investigative techniques.

Once the bodies were identified, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department handed over some 4,600 pages of material to San Bernardino County Sheriff’s investigators, who have jurisdiction over the Victorville area.

Last week, San Bernardino officials announced they had arrested and charged Joseph McStay’s business partner Charles Chase Merritt with four counts of murder in the deaths.

Gore also addressed a perception that San Bernardino investigators were critical of San Diego’s efforts.

“That's not accurate,” said Gore. “I've talked with the sheriff and I know there are investigative techniques that they've employed after they found the bodies.”

The sheriff said he had support from the McStay family throughout his department’s investigation and it was the family that reinforced the belief that the Joseph McStay and his immediate family had gone to Mexico.

As detectives combed through the McStay’s Fallbrook home, they found no evidence that the family was killed inside, according to Gore.

"Trust me, our homicide detectives are very thorough and very experienced,” said Gore. “Had there been any signs of blood stain or blood spatter or dents in walls, those would have been discovered."

Despite the criticism, Gore said he hopes news of the arrest helps bring the McStay family some closure.

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