Buried bodies of McStay children are identified

McStay family
Friends and family of the McStay family, whose remains were found buried in shallow graves in the desert near Victorville, have set up crosses memorializing them.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Investigators on Friday positively identified the bodies of the children found buried in the desert near Victorville as those of the two McStay boys. The findings come about a week after authorities announced that the other remains found in the shallow graves were those of the children’s parents.

San Bernardino County sheriff’s officials said that DNA tests had confirmed that the bodies were in fact those of Joseph and Gianni McStay. At the time the family went missing in 2010, Joseph was 3 and Gianni was 4. 

Earlier this month, a motorcyclist riding through a remote area off the 15 Freeway outside Victorville discovered bones and called authorities. Sheriff’s investigators excavated the area, finding the remains of two adults and two children.

The adults were confirmed through dental records as Joseph and Summer McStay, members of a family from the San Diego-area community of Fallbrook whose disappearance had garnered widespread attention.


The family went missing nearly four years ago, in early 2010. When family and friends had not heard from them for several days, Joseph McStay’s brother, Michael McStay, called authorities.

Investigators entering the house found no sign of a struggle. Neighbors said they hadn’t seen them for days and started feeding the family’s dogs. Investigators said at the time that the family’s life appeared normal and, then, they simply vanished.

At the time the discovery was announced in San Bernardino last week, authorities said they believed that the two smaller bodies were those of the two boys, but further tests were needed to make a definitive conclusion. 

“It’s not really the outcome we were looking for,” said Michael McStay, overcome with emotion during a news conference last week in San Bernardino. “But it gives us courage to know they’re together and they’re in a better place.”


Coroner’s officials have declared all four deaths to be homicides, but officials have declined to release the exact cause of death, citing the ongoing investigation.

The case was initially handled by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, but the investigation into their deaths is being led by the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.


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