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Cops: Suspect arrested in murder of McStay family

Joseph McStay, Summer McStay and their two children in an undated photo
CBS affiliate KFMB

VICTORVILLE, Calif. - Nearly one year after the discovery of four bodies in the desert near Victorville, Calif., there has been an arrest in the McStay family murder mystery.

Charles Merritt, a former business associate of Joseph McStay, was arrested Wednesday in San Bernardino County on four counts of murder, police announced Friday.

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Charles Merritt
San Bernardino County Sheriff's Dept. via CBS LA

The 57-year-old Merritt is charged in the deaths of Joseph McStay, 40; his wife Summer, 43; and their two young sons, Gianni, 4, and Joseph Jr., 3.

In announcing the charges against Merritt, San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon said Merritt would be eligible for the death penalty.

"I don't need to tell you that this is a cold and calloused murder of an entire family," McMahon said.

Police did not comment on a motive for the killings.

Several McStay relatives attended the press conference. Joseph McStay's brother, Michael McStay, fought back tears while addressing media.

"Joseph was a great brother, a great father. He would have done anything to protect those boys and Summer," Michael McStay said. "He tried to help Chase and provide work for this guy and this is how he was repaid."

Merritt, of Homeland, is being held at the West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga. He was scheduled to be arraigned Friday but that arraignment was later postponed.

The McStay family mysteriously vanished from their Fallbrook, Calif. home in February 2010. Authorities initially believed the family may have fled to Mexico voluntarily. Their car was found near the Mexico border and authorities believed four people seen on grainy surveillance video crossing the border were the McStays.

It wasn't until November of last year that a motorcycle rider discovered the remains of the McStay family in the Mojave Desert and the case began being investigated as a homicide.