McStay family murder suspect to defend himself


Charles Merritt

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SAN DIEGO – Charles Merritt will be representing himself in his capital murder case in which he stands accused of killing and burying a Fallbrook family in the Mojave Desert, a judge announced Tuesday.

Judge Michael A. Smith allowed Merritt, 58, to relieve him of his defense team, as requested by the defendant a week earlier. Merritt had said there was a breakdown in the attorney-client relationship.

Merritt previously told the judge that he did not want to represent himself, but would if his “back was against the wall,” The Sun reported.

In June 2015, Merritt pleaded not guilty to charges in the murders of his 40-year-old business associate Joseph McStay, wife and their two children.

The McStay family disappeared from their home in 2010 and their remains were found buried in shallow desert graves in the Mojave Desert in 2013.

Merritt initially did not seek an attorney claiming he did not have the money to hire one.  He also claimed he had congestive heart failure and only had 6 months to live.

Merritt will return to San Bernardino Justice Center courthouse on February 11 at 8:30 a.m. for a disposition reset hearing.

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