Months before he was arrested on suspicion of murder in 2014, Charles “Chase” Merritt told a CNN reporter he was “definitely the last person” whom Joseph McStay saw.
Now, jurors tasked with deciding whether Merritt killed McStay and his family — who lived in San Diego County — may be allowed to see that television interview for themselves.
Last week, San Bernardino Superior Court Judge Michael Smith gave prosecutors the OK to play the recording for the panel, so long as prosecutors can get someone on the stand to authenticate it as a true representation of the interview.
Merritt, 61, is charged with killing business partner McStay, 40, as well as McStay’s wife Summer, 43, and the couple’s young sons, Gianni, 4, and Joey Jr., 3.
The Fallbrook family vanished in February 2010, their whereabouts a mystery.
Then in November 2013, a dirt biker happened across a child’s skull during a ride in the desert outside Victorville, not far from Interstate 15, in November 2013.
It was Joey Jr.’s remains. The bones of the rest of the McStay family were found in shallow graves near where the skull was found — more than 100 miles from the family’s home.
A year later, in November 2014, San Bernardino County sheriff’s detectives arrested Merritt. Prosecutors there charged him with four counts of murder.
Merritt — who has described Joseph McStay as his best friend — has pleaded not guilty and remained jailed in the four years it took to get the case to trial.
McStay sold indoor water features and often hired Merritt, a welder, to craft them. On Feb. 4, 2010, the two men had lunch in Rancho Cucamonga to discuss upcoming projects. It’s the last known sighting of Joseph McStay.
In 2014, after the family’s remains were found but before Merritt’s arrest, CNN reporter Randi Kaye sat down with Merritt for a documentary on the missing family.
In a portion of the interview, Merritt told her that McStay might have spoken to others later that day, after their lunch.
“But you were the last person he saw?,” Kaye asked Merritt.
“I’m definitely the last person he saw,” Merritt said.
After Merritt’s arrest, Kaye told CNN host Don Lemon that she and a crew spent about two hours with Merritt on the day of the interview in January 2014, and that he had been friendly and direct in his answers.
The courtroom discussion regarding the interview came during a week in which jurors saw less than two full days of testimony — Wednesday and some of Thursday.
The San Diego Union-Tribune has monitored the trial by watching livestream coverage from Law & Crime, a website specializing in live trial coverage.
Testimony continues this week.