Sentencing delayed for man who killed McStay family

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SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. -- Sentencing for Charles Merritt, the man who was found guilty last year of murdering a Fallbrook family in 2010 and burying their bodies in the Mojave Desert, was delayed Friday after several delays arose during court proceedings.

Merritt is now expected to be sentenced Tuesday morning.

Joseph McStay, his wife Summer and their two sons disappeared in February 2010. Their bodies were discovered in a shallow grave in the Mojave Desert in November 2013, about 100 miles north of their Fallbrook home.

Merritt, a former business partner of Joseph McStay, was arrested for their murders in late 2014. Prosecutors said at the time Merritt owed Joseph McStay an estimated $42,000.

Last June, a jury recommended the death penalty after finding Merritt guilty of first-degree murder.

The courtroom was packed on Friday as people waited for a judge to announce Merritt's sentence. In what turned into hours of debate, Merritt's defense attorney asked the judge for a new trial and to allow new testimony and evidence regarding cell phone records.

Merritt was visibly irritated as his lawyer spoke, putting his head into his hands multiple times. After Merritt requested a 40-minute recess, his attorney returned and said Merritt had fired him.

The judge did not allow Merritt to fire his attorney, and court continued into the afternoon.

Around 5 p.m., the court denied all motions from the defense, including that for a new trial.

The judge was planning to recess for the night when members of the McStay family shouted in frustration, eager to have their chance to speak.

"Joey, Summer, Gianni and Joey, Jr., did nothing to you. They welcomed you into their lives and home. My son, Joey, did nothing but help you and your family.

"Because of your actions, and no one else's actions, you destroyed the lives of many other family members and friends.

"I hope you burn in hell," Joseph McStay's father said as he addressed Merritt. "But I will pray for your family and children, as they are to me just more innocent victims -- of which there are many -- that you had absolutely no regard or caring for when you murdered my family and caused such pain and suffering that will last forever."

Court is expected to reconvene at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.

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