Man charged with killing California family obtains attorneys

Reuters News
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Posted: May 22, 2015 4:30 PM

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif (Reuters) - A man charged with murdering a Southern California family of four has obtained defense attorneys after seeking to represent himself, and a judge on Friday postponed a court hearing where prosecutors will present their evidence.

Charles Ray Merritt, 58, an ex-convict, is charged with four counts of murder in the deaths of a couple and their two young sons whose skeletal remains were discovered in 2013 in the desert near Victorville, 60 miles (97 km) northeast of Los Angeles.

Merritt, who was arrested in November, has been described by police as a seller of decorative fountains who was a business associate of the slain father, Joseph McStay.

The McStays went missing in February 2010. They are believed to have been killed inside their home in the San Diego County community of Fallbrook that month, police said.

Merritt appeared in court in San Bernardino, California, on Friday with his lawyers.

San Bernardino Judge Michael Smith postponed to June 15 a hearing for prosecutors to present their evidence.

Jim Terrell, one of Merritt's attorneys, said outside of court, "We have the evidence, we know what we are facing."

Merritt had earlier taken the unusual step of seeking to represent himself, a request the judge granted.

Merritt's new lawyers said their client was ill and wants to move quickly through the court proceedings. They did not specify the illness but local media have reported Merritt has congestive heart failure.

Merritt is held without bail in a San Bernardino County jail, according to sheriff's department records.

(Reporting by Olga Grigoryants in San Bernardino, Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis)