The disappearance of the McStay family - Joseph, 41, Summer, 43, Gianni, 4, and Joey Jr., 3 - occurred in 2013, when they vanished without a trace from their California home. Their remains were eventually discovered in the Mojave Desert near Victorville, California, about 100 miles from their home. Chase Merritt, a former business partner of Joseph McStay who allegedly owed McStay money, is being charged with four counts of murder. However, many unanswered questions regarding the case leave some wondering if Merritt really is the culprit.
Theories about what happened to the McStay family are popular with amateur Internet sleuths. McStay family theories often center around the mysterious Summer McStay and her shady past, as well as the family's alleged financial troubles. As Merritt awaits trial, the McStay family murders remain officially unsolved.
Summer McStay changed her name several times during the course of her lifetime. Her maiden name was Virginia Lisa Aranda, but she had also gone by Summer Martelli in the past, as well as Summer Aranda-Martelli, Lisa Aranda, Lisa Martelli, and Lisa Aranda-Martelli. (Martelli was her stepfather's last name, though not her own legal last name,)
Even odder? After the McStays went missing, Summer's mother-in-law discovered Summer was actually eleven years older than she claimed to be.
Summer's reasons for changing her name and age remain unclear. If Summer had a reason for altering her identity, she never disclosed that to any of her surviving friends and family members. Many people wonder if Summer was hiding from someone.
Joseph McStay's surviving relatives are adamant Joseph was terrified of Mexican drug cartels and would never take his family into the country. Internet searches on the McStay's home computer, however, indicate otherwise. There were various searches related to Spanish lessons, as well as the search, "What documents do children need to travel to Mexico?"
While the McStays may have been simply planning a vacation, it's strange they would not inform friends and family members of these plans. Also, Summer's passport was expired. As the McStay family's car was found near the Mexican border, authorities originally thought the family may have left willingly for Mexico. Was the family tying to flee to Mexico prior to being apprehended by their killer?
It's hard to believe anyone would want to hurt the seemingly beloved Joseph McStay, but some theorize Joseph was being poisoned. He suddenly took ill before his disappearance, experiencing symptoms such as vertigo. While his family chalked it up to stress, after the disappearance, some pointed to poisoning as the reason for Joseph's poor health.
Chase Merritt, currently being charged with the family's murder, claims Joseph admitted to him in confidence he believed his wife was poisoning him. As Merritt is far from a credible witness, it's easy to discount this. However, could someone else have been poisoning Joseph McStay? Given his sudden and mysterious symptoms, perhaps someone close to him was slipping him poison.
Summer McStay may have struggled with a temper. While Joseph McStay's father vehemently denied Summer would harm his son, he admitted his daughter-in-law was very possessive of Joseph. In addition to this, someone used the family's home computer to search for homeopathic anger management medication the day the family disappeared.
As Summer McStay turned up dead as well, it's obvious she was not the culprit in the murder. However, could Summer's anger have contributed in other ways? The motive for the McStay family murder remains unclear. Perhaps Summer got into an angry confrontation with the killer.