Remains found in shallow graves in the California desert belong to a San Diego couple who disappeared more than three years ago with their two young sons, authorities announced Friday. Other remains are believed to be of their boys.
San Bernardino County Sheriff McMahon said that two skeletons found Monday were those of Joseph McStay, 40, and Summer McStay, 43. Autopsies and forensic tests were expected to confirm that the other remains belonged to their sons, Gianni, 4, and Joseph Jr., 3.
How the McStays were slain will not be released, the sheriff's department said in a statement.
At least one set of remains was bound with an electrical cord, sheriff's officials close to the investigation told the San Bernardino Sun.
An off-road motorcyclist spotted bones while riding just off near Interstate 15 on the outskirts of Victorville, about 80 miles northeast of Los Angeles. It appeared they had been dug up by an animal. Investigators were led to a pair of graves, about 1 to 2 feet deep, where two sets of bodies were found.
"At this point, we have no idea how long they'd been there," McMahon said at a news conference. He added that it was "too early to tell if it's (drug) cartel-related or any other suspects."
Joseph McStay's brother, Michael, faced reporters afterward, choking back tears.
"It gives us courage to know that they're together and they're in a better place," he said. "We're going to find this individual or individuals. I know the sheriffs and FBI and everyone wants to bring this to justice. If it's the last thing I do, I wanna know that it's over."
The McStays were last heard from on Feb. 4, 2010. Relatives said they were happy and had recently moved into a five-bedroom home. Their bank accounts contained tens of thousands of dollars.
Days later, police found no signs of forced entry at their home in Fallbrook, about 55 miles north of San Diego. Rotting food was found in the kitchen, and their dogs were in the backyard without food or water. Their SUV was found parked two blocks from the U.S.-Mexico border.
Investigators initially believed the McStays voluntarily went to Mexico, citing night surveillance video Feb. 8 showing a man and a woman walking into Tijuana, each holding the hand of a child. But family members were skeptical, saying they would not just walk away from their life.
"Whether or not they actually crossed the border and then came back, we're not sure. It's too early in the investigation," McMahon said.
The McStays were interested in Mexico in the weeks before they vanished. According to their computer history, Summer McStay bought Spanish-language software, and either she or her husband searched about passport requirements for children traveling into Mexico, U-T San Diego writes.