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Missing McStay family killed, buried in desert, sheriff says

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Authorities on Friday confirmed that two members of the McStay family who went missing in 2010 were found buried in the desert outside Victorville this week, and that their deaths were being treated as homicides.

While confirming the identities of Joseph McStay, 42, and his wife, Summer, 45, San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon would not say if the two other sets of skeletal remains discovered at the site were that of the couple's children, Gianni, 4, and Joseph Jr., 3.

The remains were found Monday by a motorcyclist, off-roading through a remote area of San Bernardino County.

McMahon said it was too early in the investigation to identify suspects or possible motives, but he vowed to use whatever resources necessary to "bring these suspects to justice."

"It's too early to tell if its [drug] cartel-related or any other suspects," he said. "But, again, the investigation is early and we have not had an opportunity to read all their reports."

Joseph McStay's brother, Mike McStay, told reporters that the confirmation of the identities of his two relatives afforded some amount of peace for the family.

"It gives us courage to know that they're together and they’re in a better place," he said. "We're going to find this individual or individuals. I know the sheriffs and FBI and everyone wants to bring this to justice. If it’s the last thing I do, I wanna know that it's over."

McMahon said autopsies were planned to obtain the rest of the identities.

"We have no idea how long they've been there," he said.

The family went missing in February 2010. When family and friends had not heard from them for several days, Mike McStay, called authorities.

Investigators entering the house found no sign of a struggle. Neighbors said they hadn't seen the family for days and started feeding the family's dogs.

"The bottom line," the lead investigator in the case, Troy Dugal, told The Times in 2011, "was that life was normal for the McStays up to Feb. 4, and on that day they just vanished."

At the time, Joseph was 40 and Summer was a 43-year-old stay-at-home mom, described as fiercely protective of her boys, Gianni and Joseph Jr.

Investigators found out that the family's SUV had been towed from the parking lot of a strip mall in San Ysidro, an hour's drive from the McStays' Fallbrook home and a short walk from a pedestrian crossing into Mexico. 

Investigators examined surveillance footage from the border crossing, and among the thousands who crossed the border that day investigators saw a man holding the hand of a young boy followed by a woman holding the hand of another boy.

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