Last month marked the 3rd anniversary since a family of four mysteriously vanished from their Southern California home.
Joseph McStay; his wife, Summer; and their two children, Gianni and Joseph Mateo, have not been heard from since the night of Thursday, February 4, 2010. A neighbor’s security camera was triggered at 7:47PM when the McStays white 1996 Isuzu Trooper left the family’s home in a quiet cul-de-sac on Avocado Vista in Fallbrook, CA. The neighborhood is described as the “friendly village,” and is about 18 miles from the Pacific Coast and some 50 miles north of San Diego.
Loved ones contacted authorities less than 24 hours after failing to reach the family. When police entered their house they found eggs on the kitchen counter and bowls of popcorn in the living room. Their two dogs were also in the house but not a single trace of the McStays.
The McStay family home
On February 8, 2010, four days after the family mysteriously disappeared police believed they found a reliable lead. The family’s locked and abandoned Isuzu Trooper was located in San Ysidro, just two blocks from the US / Mexico border. Surveillance video taken that night shows a family fitting the description of the McStays walking into Mexico although it hasn’t been confirmed if it was indeed them. Many don’t think it. I mean why would a successful couple with a nice house in a safe neighborhood leave suddenly without saying so much as a goodbye to their family and loved ones. It makes little sense.
The McStays Trooper
Still shot from the surveillance video showing four individuals who resemble the McStay family crossing the US Mexico Border. It has never been confirmed if it was indeed the missing family and nobody has come forward claiming to have been the family shown in the video.
Cell tower records reveal that the two mobile phones belonging to Joseph and Summer McStay last pinged a pair of T-Mobile towers along Highway 76 in Bonsall, at a point seven miles west of the family’s home in Fallbrook.
After the 7:47 p.m. departure that Thursday night, Joseph McStay’s mobile phone – a T-Mobile G1 Android – received no further incoming calls. It made only one outbound call.
At 8:28 p.m., Joseph McStay’s phone dialed his business partner Chase Merritt. Records indicate a call duration of one minute. No further calls or text were ever made or received.
It is now being reported that the call to Merritt was made from within a one-and-a-half mile radius of a cell tower that sits beside the old Bonsall bridge that spans the wide and densely overgrown bed of the San Luis Rey River.
The mobile phone belonging to Summer McStay registered its final call at 4:42 that same Thursday afternoon. Disconcertingly, though, her phone continued to receive text messages after the disappearance – eight, in total. Three texts sent by family friend McGyver McCargar arrived on Friday. The last four texts, including two messages from Dan Kavanaugh, an associate of Joseph McStay, arrived on Saturday. The final text message registered at 10:59 a.m., presumably just before the mobile phone’s battery was exhausted.
Some of these text messages to Summer McStay pinged the same T-Mobile tower as Joseph McStay’s phone call on the night of the disappearance. The other text messages pinged a companion tower on the opposite side of the river.
“Summer McStay’s phone was not buried, and wasn’t submerged. It was not broken. It was switched on, and for two days it was within reach of the T-Mobile tower by the old Bonsall bridge.”
Joseph’s mother, Susan Blake, writes to her son Joseph all the time. “I send him e-mails,” she says, “keeping him updated on what’s going on.”
She hasn’t received any answers. All she can do is hope that she’ll see him and her grandchildren again one day.
Those closest to the missing family remain hopeful that they are still alive even though it’s been three years and not a single confirmed spotting.
“If you look at the clothing that they were wearing at the time, it coincides with when the vehicle was found; it leads you to believe that was them crossing the border,” Investigator Dennis Brugos said. “I can’t say definitively it’s them, but it’s a high probability.”
But Joseph’s mother isn’t convinced.
“My son’s meds were in that car,” she tells CNN. “My son has asthma and doesn’t go anywhere without the meds on him. And to have babies go without car seats. This is the stuff that doesn’t add up.”
Mike McStay says he is unsure if it was his brother and family in the video. “The best is that the children appear to be size appropriate, but I could never get an ID off the adult. Even if it were them crossing, we still don’t know to what intent. We don’t know if it was under duress or willingly.”
“My brother is out there. I want what everyone wants, a phone call, a letter, something. I don’t want to know why he left. We just have to know that they are OK.” says Mike.
Mike McStay is familiar with the theories speculating on what might have happened including one presented in the new book, “No Goodbyes: The Mysterious Disappearance of the McStay Family.”
Author Rick Baker says his own investigation including reviewing hundreds of personal e-mails, shows that Summer and Joseph were having problems and that their relationship was, in his words, about to “explode.” Baker speculates, among other things, that at least one of the family members may have met with foul play.
“I personally believe that Summer probably killed Joseph and we should be looking for Summer and the two kids, rather than a family of four that decided to just flee on their own,” Baker told 10 News.
He said personal emails from Summer indicated that she was a “very unhappy … conflicted woman” before the family vanished. Still, he admits that he doesn’t have all the answers in the bizarre case.
“If I should discover that you have ignored this message and keep digging around I will turn on you,” wrote Summer to Joseph in 2007. “I’m so sick of your nosy (expletive). You’d better stop or we’re over”
“I must say… this is one of the nastiest e-mails I (have) ever gotten…So foul, I can’t believe it came from you,” Joseph’s email reply said.
Mike McStay bristles when asked to comment on Baker’s suggestion. “I don’t know how he sleeps at night,” McStay says of the author. “I suspect he’s looking for money. He’s a good manipulator and knows how to twist things. He’s just trying to sell books.”
Blake, the mother, says there were many inaccuracies in the book. “It was very hard to read all this, very heartbreaking, the accusations.”
Baker says he is donating all of the book’s profits to a search and rescue organization in Houston. He is also offering $25,000 cash to anyone who can lead him to any of the four missing McStay family members.
Police dug into the family’s background. Summer McStay had stayed home to raise her children but planned to return to work prior to the family’s disappearance, her brother-in-law said.
Mike McStay calls sister-in-law Summer McStay an “incredible mom.”
Joseph McStay owned Earth Inspired Products, a company that built custom water features for high-end commercial businesses around the world, says Mike McStay, his younger brother.
Younger sibling Joseph McStay would have turned 6 on January 31, 2013 and Gianni McStay would be 7 now.
Right; Gianni Left; Joseph
Thousands of tips and leads were followed, as well as searches and National media attention but police are nowhere closer to solving the mystery.
“This is definitely an unusual case,” says Lt. Glenn Giannantonio of the San Diego Sheriff’s Department’s homicide division “At this point we are no closer to finding them than on the day they disappeared. I know that sounds horrible, but we just don’t know what happened to them.”
Giannantonio cautions there is no evidence to indicate foul play. “Everything leads us to believe the disappearance is voluntary. It’s still categorized as a missing persons case,” he says.
“We have to rely on facts and evidence. We don’t want to publicize unsubstantiated theories. Everyone has theories, however we can’t come out and say this is what actually happened unless we have something to back that up. Other people can, but that’s not the business we are in.”
Mike and his mother get reported sightings of the McStays on a regular basis. They come from all over the country. Mike, who says he chases them all down, recently received a tip from Belize, where his brother owned property.
“Every time one comes your heart pumps and you hope to God that this is it,” Blake says, “and when it’s not you fall apart. It’s heartbreaking and very hard.”
Blake says the search for her family is the biggest fight of her life. “I refuse to give up. I hope to God, but at the same time it’s been three years.”
A website was set up to help find the family, McStayFamily.Org, which features a blog that is still updated.
If you have any information regarding this case you’re urged to please contact:
San Diego Sheriff’s Office 858-974-2321 or 858-565-5200 after-hours.
Tips can also be called in anonymously to CrimeStoppers at 888-580-TIPS(8477). A reward of up to $1,000 is being offered by CrimeStoppers for information leading to an arrest.