Not guilty plea in California desert graves case

AP News
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Posted: Nov 12, 2014 5:19 PM

VICTORVILLE, Calif. (AP) — A Southern California man has pleaded not guilty to charges that he beat to death a family of four, then buried the bodies in the desert.

Charles Merritt was ordered held without bail Wednesday after a brief arraignment on murder charges in San Bernardino County Superior Court.

Prosecutors believe Merritt killed his business associate, Joseph McStay, and McStay's family in February 2010 at their home in the San Diego County community of Fallbrook.

The family's disappearance remained a mystery until the remains of McStay, his wife, Summer, and their two sons, ages 3 and 4, were found in shallow graves last year in the desert outside Victorville.

Merritt was arrested last week in Los Angeles.

Authorities say McStay and Merritt worked together designing water features.

Investigators haven't released a motive.