Jury recommends death penalty for man who killed McStay family

Family of four buried in Mojave Desert

By Jenn Selva, CNN
iStock/allanswart

A jury recommended the death penalty for the man who killed a California family of four and buried them in the Mojave Desert nine years ago.

Charles Ray Merritt, 62, was found guilty earlier this month on four first-degree murder charges in the deaths of Joseph and Summer McStay and their children Gianni, 4, and Joseph Jr., 3.

Jurors recommended life in prison for Merritt with no parole for the murder of Joseph Mc Stay, but they delivered three death penalty recommendations for the murders of his wife and their two children.

The family went missing in 2010. Their bodies were found in a shallow grave in the Mojave Desert in 2013, about 100 miles north of their San Diego home. They had died of blunt force trauma, according to police.

Merritt, a business associate of Joseph's, was arrested in 2014. Prosecutors say Merritt owed McStay more than $42,000.

The family's disappearance long puzzled investigators who said there were no signs of struggle at their Fallbrook home. Food had been left out and the dogs were home.

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