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Mystery 'digger' track marks found at McStay family grave site

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  • Old track marks 67 inches apart found at site where the skeletal remains of McStay family were found in California desert - 100 miles from family home they vanished from in 2010
  • Joseph McStay's brother, Michael, tells MailOnline he's convinced killer had local knowledge 
  • There is quarry nearby so sight of a digger would not be out of place
  • A shooting range is down street too - so sound of gunshots is commonplace
  • Michael says everyone is a suspect and he expects to be quizzed again
  • Family held emotional memorial at grave site yesterday on and sang happy birthday to Joseph on the day he would have turned 44
  • Close friend Chase Merritt who has been accused of having a hand in their disappearance broke his silence with MailOnline after family's remains were found last Friday 

By Will Payne In Victorville, California

PUBLISHED: 11:14 EST, 21 November 2013 | UPDATED: 11:23 EST, 21 November 2013

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Police are investigating whether killers 'with local knowledge' used a digger to bury the four bodies of the McStay family in desert graves, MailOnline can reveal today.

Two sets of tell-tale track marks – believed to have been made by a small earth moving vehicle - have been found leading directly up to the spot where the remains of Joseph, Summer and their boys Gianni and Joey Jr were discovered last Friday nearly four years after they vanished.

Police are looking at the theory that a digger was used after Joseph’s brother Michael visited the site yesterday, spotted the markings and called a detective working on the case.

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photo of track marks - McStays story
photo of track marks - McStays story

Clue: Joseph McStay's brother informed detectives of these track marks - 67 inches apart - near the grave sites. He believes they were made by a small earth moving digger used possibly by the murderers

Michael McStay and his wife Erin solemnly take part in the memorial service four years after his brother's disappearance

Michael McStay and his wife Erin solemnly take part in the memorial service yesterday, nearly four years after his brother's disappearance

Michael – who works in construction – believes they were made by a Bobcat-type vehicle. He claims they were too old to have been made during the excavation of the bodies - which was done by hand.

He is also convinced the killers had intimate local knowledge because of the secluded nature of the gruesome grave site - around 100 miles from the family's Fallbrook home.

Michael also said there is a quarry nearby, meaning the use of a digger would not seem out of the ordinary to any witnesses. And there is a shooting range nearby - so gunshots would not have sounded out of place, he said.

The tracks at the scene also makes Michael think whoever was responsible was not an amateur and knew what they were doing.  

Michael said: ‘The two trenches are symmetrical and exactly the same distance apart. We measured the distance between the tracks and I called my friend at a machine hire rental place to ask what kind of machine has tracks 67 inches apart. He said it would be a Bobcat. 

‘There is a quarry just up the track from the site so a Bobcat would not raise a red flag. The guy would had to have had a four-wheel truck that could drive a trailer into there. 

Joseph and Summer mysteriously vanished without a trace in 2010 with their young sons, Gianni and Joey Junior

Suspicion: Joseph and Summer mysteriously vanished without a trace in 2010 with their young sons, Gianni and Joey Junior. Joseph's brother, Michael says everyone is 'still a suspect'

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Knowledge: Michael claims the killer would have known the local area. A quarry and shooting range are nearby - so the use of a digger or the sound of gunshots would not have been out of place to witnesses

Human remains found in the San Bernardino County desert may belong to four members of a San Diego family that has been missing since 2010

Distance: The skeletal remains of the McStays were found around 100 miles north of their Fallbrook home

‘Also there’s a shooting range up the street, so gunshots wouldn’t be out of place. Whoever it was must have known the area.

‘After I’d been up to the site I called one of the detectives working the case and said, ‘look I don’t know if this means anything and I’m sure you guys are on top of things, but I’m in construction and that’s what I saw.’

A local present at yesterday's memorial visited the site very soon after the remains were discovered and told MailOnline they seemed to have been made years ago. 

February - the month the McStays went missing - is the wettest time of the year in the area meaning the ground could have been damp enough to allow a Bobcat to sink into the ground and make the tracks.

Speaking to MailOnline, Michael went on to shed more light on the new investigation. He said ‘everyone’ is now a suspect in the murder of his relatives and that even he fully expects to be questioned again.

There was no sign of forced entry at the couple's California home following their disappearance. Their car was discovered abandoned near border crossing Mystery: There was no sign of forced entry at the couple's home following their disappearance. Their car was discovered abandoned near the Mexican border crossing 

'Not your everyday kind of crime': Four-year-old Gianni (left) and three-year-old Joey Junior (right) disappeared with their parents. Their remains were found in shallow desert graves last week
'Not your everyday kind of crime': Four-year-old Gianni (left) and three-year-old Joey Junior (right) disappeared with their parents. Their remains were found in shallow desert graves last week

'Not your everyday kind of crime': Four-year-old Gianni (left) and three-year-old Joey Junior (right) disappeared with their parents. Police are reviewing 4,000 pages of documents in the case

He is absolutely happy to answer anything thrown at him and will do whatever it takes to finally bring the killers to justice.

Soon after an emotional memorial yesterday in the Mojave Desert, California, which saw four crosses erected on the spot the bodies were found and doves released into the sky, 40-year-old Michael said: ‘The police are going to check everybody and review every aspect of this case.

‘I’m going to be asked the same questions as I was almost four years ago. I’m sure they will take my DNA again as well.

‘Everyone’s a suspect and my attitude is, ‘let’s go, I’m ready’. I’m all for it. I want the police to do absolutely everything they can to catch the people who did this to my family.

‘On Friday the San Bernardino police told me they have got 4,000 pages of documents to go through from the FBI and the San Diego police who were handling the case before. 

‘They will be re-interviewing everybody. I have already been contacted by friends who have said the police have been in touch. The police are going to go after this thing and until they arrest somebody, I’ve just got to let this play out.

Mourners gathered in the Mojave desert where the remains of the McStay family were discovered last Friday

Remote: Mourners gathered in the Mojave desert where the remains of the McStay family were discovered last Friday 

Friends and family members sang happy birthday to the husband and father who would have been 44 on Wednesday

Heartbreak: Friends and family members sang happy birthday to husband and father Joseph who would have been 44 on Wednesday 

‘The last few days I have been trying to gain my strength because I know this is going to be a long haul. I don’t start fights I finish them and I am in a fight to the end. 

‘When I was up at the site I made a promise. I sat there and I put my hand on Summer’s cross, because I know how much of a momma bear she was about protecting her boys and I said, ‘I’m going to see this thing through’. 

‘I don’t have to tell my brother that, he already knows, but I wanted to let her know.

‘They are going to catch the people who did this and I am going to stand in front of them in court and look them in the eye. I will be there when they flick the switch. There’s a special place in hell for them.’

A San Bernardino police spokeswoman yesterday confirmed all the original witnesses will be spoken to again. She said: ‘We will be re-interviewing anyone who was interviewed before, as we are starting again from the beginning.

‘We are only a week into the investigation and there are currently no known suspects.’ 

Yesterday – which would have been Joseph’s 44th birthday - was Michael’s first trip to the remote Californian desert location where the bodies were discovered after the McStays mysteriously went missing on February 4 2010.

Having recently bought a $320,000 house in Fallbrook, Michael, 40,  Summer, 43,  Gianni, 4, and Joey Jr., 3, vanished, leaving $100,000 in the bank, food on the counter, and their beloved dogs in the yard.

After their car was found abandoned on the Mexican border and security footage emerged of a man, woman and two young children crossing into the Spanish speaking country, they were believed to have fled to start a new life across the border. 

Rumors of shady dealings with drug cartels also started to circulate.

Promise: Michael, pictured here just hours after the remains were found, has vowed to see the killer brought to justice

Promise: Michael, pictured here just hours after the remains were found, has vowed to see the killer brought to justice

Speaking out: Chase Merritt, 56, who took a lie detector test after the disappearance said there was no way Joseph, his business partner, would have been involved in crime

Speaking out: Chase Merritt, 56, who took a lie detector test after the disappearance said there was no way Joseph, his business partner, would have been involved in crime

Police have played down the possibility of any link between the murders and organised crime south of the border. 

In an exclusive interview with MailOnline this week, Joseph’s former business associate Chase Merritt, 56, said his close friend was not involved in anything illegal.

He explained: ‘And any suggestion he was involved with the cartels is nonsense. Joseph was the most honest person I had ever met. I crossed his Is and crossed his Ts. He wouldn’t even drop litter, let alone get involved in anything more serious.

‘Even the thought of being involved in drugs would have sent him into a fit of paranoia. There’s no way he would have been caught up in crime, he was just not that kind of person.’

While Michael is determined not to be dragged into a quagmire of speculation, his father Patrick has gone on record saying he has a list of three of four potential suspects who he thinks are responsible for the crime. 

That is not something Michael is prepared to do. ‘I’m not a professional and I don’t want to go into the case, because law enforcement need to be left to get on with this.

‘I am sure whoever committed this crime will be brought to justice and we will get some closure.’ 

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