San Bernardino County Sheriff’s deputies escort Charles Merritt to the West Valley Detention Center. Courtesy sheriff

The ex-business partner of a Fallbrook man who mysteriously disappeared with his wife and two young sons was arrested on suspicion of murdering the entire family.

Charles “Chase” Merritt, 57, was arrested Wednesday afternoon in Victorville in connection with the deaths of Joseph McStay, 40, his wife, Summer, 43, and their sons, Gianni, 4, and Joseph Jr., 3, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department announced Friday.

He was scheduled to be arraigned on four counts of murder in San Bernardino County on Friday afternoon.

Investigators believe Merritt acted alone in killing all four family members, Sheriff John McMahon told reporters at a news conference in San Bernardino. The cause of death for everyone was blunt force trauma that occurred in the family home, he said without elaboration.

The suspected motive was also withheld.

“Although we can never bring them back, I hope that on some level this brings them closure,” McMahon said, referring to extended family members who were at the 9 a.m. news conference. He also thanked law enforcement for not giving up on the case.

The McStay family. Photos courtesy San Bernardino County Sheriff

The McStays’ skeletal remains were found last Veterans Day — more than three years after they went missing — by a motorcyclist who was riding in an open area west of Interstate 15 near Victorville.

The boys’ remains were identified using DNA testing, while dental records confirmed the adult bodies were those of their parents.

Joseph McStay ran a successful business selling customized decorative water features, such as indoor waterfalls.

The last known confirmed sighting of the family was on Feb. 4, 2010. The family appeared to have left their northern San Diego County home in a hurry, according to investigators.

Deputies found their two dogs at the house, and nothing inside suggested the couple and their children had gone on a vacation or other routine trip. A carton of eggs was left on a kitchen counter, investigators said.

— City News Service

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.