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Former relative reflects on the positive Identification of the missing McStay family

Tom Blake. File photo
Tom Blake. File photo

By Tom Blake

For me, Friday, November 15, 2013, was one of the most difficult days of my life. The reason why is very personal and hard to write about. But, if writing about it helps brings attention to a homicide, I feel I must speak up.

In the late 1980s, and early 1990s, I helped raise two stepsons—Joseph “Joey” and Michael “Mikey” McStay. Their mother Susan and I were married for six years. We lived in Dana Point.

On February 4, 2010, Joey, his wife Summer and their two young children, ages 4 and 3, disappeared from their north San Diego County home. They left food on the table, their beloved dogs behind and $80,000 in the bank. So it didn’t appear they left voluntarily.

However, four days later, their car was found parked in a shopping center near the Mexican border. People speculated they had left on their own. After almost three years of investigating the case, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department decided that’s what had happened, and dropped the investigation.

National media featured the case, including “America’s Most Wanted” and other national shows. People across America were baffled by the family’s disappearance.

Almost every day since, I kept hoping that I would hear positive news or Joey would call me saying that he and his family were safe.

On Thursday night, November 14, I received a phone call from Mikey. I could tell by the sound of his voice that the news wasn’t good. He said, “They’re all gone.” I couldn’t process his words. I kept asking, “Are you sure?”

Earlier in the week, an off-road motorcyclist had noticed human bones in the San Bernardino desert near Victorville. He notified authorities, who found the remains of four people in two shallow graves. Dental records confirmed that two of the bodies were Joey and Summer. The other two bodies had not been positively identified at the time.

A press conference about the case was held Friday morning, November 15, at the San Bernardino sheriff’s office. The conference was broadcast across the nation. To see my former wife, Susan and her son, Mikey, in such a state of grief tore my heart apart.

I muddled through the rest of the day, unable to process the news, unable to comprehend such a terrible act. It seemed every time I turned on the radio, the television or the Internet, the news regarding the discovery of the McStay family remains was featured.

Reality struck at about 3:30 p.m. for me. I was pulling into the shopping center near Del Avion and Golden Lantern streets in Dana Point to have my cell phone inspected at the AT&T store. On KNX radio, Scott Pelly of the CBS-TV national evening news was doing a promo for his show that night. The entire two minutes was devoted to the McStay family. I thought to myself, “Oh my God, I was in this very shopping center at least 25 times with Joey when we lived together.” It just seemed so surreal.

Yes, I have spoken to Susan. She said, “I am numb. I never imagined this outcome. I never gave up hope. Now, there’s a new focus on the case.” She’s a brave woman.

The case is now being investigated as a homicide by the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department and the FBI. Let’s hope whoever murdered this family is brought to justice.

Tom Blake is the owner of Tutor and Spunky’s Deli in Dana Point and the regular contributor of the bi-monthly column in the Dana Point Times, “On Life and Love After 50.” In the late 1980s, Tom was married to Susan McStay, mother of Joseph McStay, whose remains along with his wife, Summer, and two bodies believed to be their sons, Gianni and Joseph Jr., were found in San Bernardino County on Monday, November 11. Tom is a regular contributor of a bi-monthly column in the Dana Point Times titled, On Life and Love After 50.

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