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McStay family murder case postponed again

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SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – Unraveling the McStay family murder will have to wait yet again.

Prosecutors were supposed to present key, never-seen-before evidence Tuesday against Charles “Chase” Merritt, the man accused in the McStay family murder. The judge would then decide if there was enough evidence to move the case forward to trial.

The hearing has now been postponed to Friday.

As the court convened in a San Bernardino County courtroom, Merritt appeared for the first time with an attorney standing by his side. Merritt had previously chosen to represent himself. He claimed he had congestive heart failure and only had 6 to 7 months to live. He also said he did not have the money to hire an attorney.

“I don’t want to comment too much,” said Jimmy Mettias, attorney.

Mettias told FOX 5 he was recently retained by Merritt. He said he is not officially on the case yet as he is still working out issues with his potential client.

Mettias also said Merritt could not proceed with his preliminary hearing since he did not bring his paperwork to court Tuesday.

“What we’ve been told is that he had a doctor’s appointment already scheduled for this morning, but they did end up bringing him to court,” explained Mettias. “The paperwork was left at the jail cell.”

Merritt told Judge Michael Smith he was brought straight to the courthouse following a doctor’s appointment Tuesday morning, and didn’t have his case file. FOX 5 spoke to Cindy Bachman with the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department, who said Merritt’s doctor’s appointment was actually Tuesday afternoon and for reasons unknown he chose not to bring his paperwork to court.

Prosecutors also were not ready Tuesday. Deputy District Attorney Sean Daugherty was ill and was unable to attend court. Judge Smith asked Michelle Lauron, the supervisor for the San Bernardino District Attorney standing in for Daugherty, if she was ready to proceed, Lauron also asked for more time.

“I would need a little bit of time to get up to speed,” said Lauron.

The judge had no choice but to postpone the hearing again.

Joseph and Summer McStay and their two sons, Gianni and Joseph disappeared in February 2010. Three years later, in November 2013, their remains were found buried in shallow graves in the rural desert near Victorville, California. Charles Merrit was arrested a year later.

Both the McStay and Merritt families were present at the preliminary hearing Tuesday, but no one wanted to comment. The Merritt family huddled and said a prayer before court began.

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