While I believe that the missing McStay family voluntarily left their former lives behind, all the darker speculation and some of the darker revelations in Rick Baker's recent book on the case (No Goodbyes) have compelled me to at least revisit various particulars and principals in the case--and the X factors--and see if anything pointed in the direction of a darker fate for the McStays in any convincing manner.
I wanted to just play out in my head the likelihood (or lack thereof) of each scenario inasmuch as my imagination would allow me to do that.
I think it's interesting (going by recent quotes) that law enforcement seems to have flip-flopped back to the position that it's a voluntary disappearance after a dark period where they were leaning towards the idea that the family had been murdered--in sum, or at least the adults.
But who hasn't flip-flopped on this case? My "flip-flops" have generally occurred during the periods of new information. I suddenly became confident they were alive again when the Ling documentary aired. And I stayed at that "holding position," which wavered briefly while reading Baker's book. But even with all the darkness he reveals "behind the scenes" (behavior which it seems could very easily lead to prosecution by the state, federal government or both) I still can envision a clear way out for the McStays that night and see them as in charge of their fate, alive and well, even to this day. Money shouldn't be a problem, since both Joseph and Summer know how to use the internet to make a better than decent living. I could easily imagine Joseph working online, making a decent living without even having to produce a product or interact IRL with clients. Ditto for Summer. And on a more cynical note, a family member could easily be funnelling them money from the cash cow this case has clearly become.
First, let me state the facts which I believe point to a voluntarily
disappearance--many of these I had discussed long before Baker's book
came out, but some are obviously a result of the disclosures in the
recent book--and in some cases a mixture of the two. In other words,
evidence in the book confirmed (for me anyway) some previous hypotheses or
REASONS TO BELIEVE THE MCSTAYS VOLUNTARILY DEPARTED THEIR LIVES
1. They had many stressors in their life. The departure was one week after the shocking (to Summer) crash of the loan modification business which employed her (due to embezzlement and the breaking of other laws). It was clear some employees of the business were going to be prosecuted. Summer seemed to process this information with some grace, but knowing her temperament and her usual paranoia, this could have been a strong incentive to leave. Other strong stressors and possible reasons to leave include the unsuccessful resolution of their CPS case alleging abuse of Joseph's son by a previous marriage. The accused individual allegedly threatened S.M. in a conversation with J.M.. Quote: "Muzzle your wife--or I will." The economy was tanking. Joseph lamented the current state of business in his correspondence with his service provider (or was it an S.E.O. outfit?). In any case, it was clear the salad days were over and J.M. had previously declared bankruptcy just a few years earlier. It looks as though they were approaching a point in time where good money might start to be thrown after bad. There were other reasons, examined elsewhere on this blog.
2. The search on their computer for requirements for children's passports with regard to traveling to Mexico point the direction of a willing disappearance there. Additionally, they purchased Rosetta Stone software (two separate purchases) which teaches the Spanish language to English speakers, one set of discs for adults and the other for the children. Summer had allegedly previously said she distrusted Mexico as a travel destination, so while that might rule the trip into Mexico as a "vacation," it wouldn't necessarily rule it out as a refuge. One thinks differently when one is desperate to escape a dangerous situation--or a situation perceived as dangerous.
3. No evidence pointing to a violent confrontation and no trace evidence revealing the presence of any unknowns subjects (unsubs) was found by law enforcement in either the house in Fallbrook or the vehicle left within 300 feet of the border.
4. There have been sightings of the family in numerous places and the sighting in Merida seems to be a particularly credible one to my mind. So that puts the family alive some time after their disappearance--and all together.
5. Summer bought "beach things" on her last known shopping trip, the day of her disappearance. And remember, this was February. I believe she also bought baby clothes intended for her sister's (at that time) unborn child. But the baby clothes could mean the intention to depart was really a sudden decision later that night or that plans had been sped up unexpectedly due to unforeseen circumstances. I don't know if the large children's toys found in the vehicle after its abandonment were on the receipt from that day. I'm leaning towards no, which would imply the toys were bought sometime in the "missing four days." This would almost certainly mean the McStays were alive and the ones making these purchases (one child had a birthday that weekend). It's rather unlikely a kidnapper or killer would be the one buying these toys for the children.
6. Just wanted to add that the "messy' state of the house means absolutely nothing to my mind. If you're leaving and not coming back, who cares what the house looks like. Yes, if they were frustrated and knew they were leaving, they might just go through closets and just throw things down on the floor to see what they were taking with them--the essentials. It's unlikely a killer would go through clothes in a closet in that manner, throwing garments on the floor. A thief or thieves might do that to see what's behind the clothes but it takes time and effort that most won't give. They'd just part the clothes like curtains and look in quickly. Someone choosing clothes would do that, however. And that would fit in with voluntary disappearance. Baker's book reveals that a pair of Uggs (many point to these distinctive boots in the crossing video as a clincher that it really is Summer) had been found in the abandoned house--but she could easily have owned more than one pair.
7. According to Baker's book, an $81,000 payment for a Saudi Arabian fountain commissioned through Joseph's business is unaccounted for. This is, almost funnily, the only commission paid for which was actually finished (Chase Merritt flew over and completed the job) after the McStays disappeared. Other fountains were "sold" but fraudulently, since funds were collected (apparently by Dan Kavanagh) and orders were never begun, let alone completed. According to Joseph's mother (her interview by Laura Ling) Joseph was very good at bankrolling money and probably had considerable cash resources. The family also owned land in South America and who knows what other liquid assets. Joseph's email to his I.S.P. or S.E.O. outfit includes statements that mirror those made by his mother. He talks about how D.K saves no money and how alien this mode of living is to J.M. himself
8. The vehicle was found within 300 feet of a border where you can just walk across into Mexico. Again, no sign of foul play or of any unknown subject was found in the vehicle. There is the debatable video footage of a family that might be the McStays (some argue it's not the complete family--most often people question whether the man is Joseph).
IF SOME OR ALL OF THE MCSTAYS WERE KILLED, WHAT IS THE LIKELIHOOD THAT VARIOUS PRINCIPALS IN THE CASE DID IT--OR COMMISSIONED THE ACT
1. Dan Kavanaugh. The IM exchange between J.M. and D.K. reveals D.K. to be someone given to threats and blackmail. When outlining a projected book on the McStays, he disturbingly named the second chapter "NO BODIES, NO CASE"--which sounds like a first person statement. People who have had extensive personal contact with him have described him as "like a sociopath." The IM exchange published in Baker's book and the portrait of him which emerges from that comport exactly with the typical behavior of sociopaths. I mean to a t --a t that's even crossed. Sociopaths actually enjoy risk. They feel invincible. Was his email to Summer asking about J.M.'s whereabouts a CYA thing? Because he didn't seem to follow up afterwards (although possibly the news of their disappearance had reached him by then). Baker alleges D.K. made a visit to the house post-disappearance and then made statements which belied something he would have known. He is known to have sold fountains which were never installed through Joseph's company after his disappearance, assumed a fake alter ego, "Vince," to deal wiith customers, and had some funds transferred into his grandfather's bank account as well as his own. These are all things a sociopath would do. He had repeatedly warned Joseph McStay. in the IM exchange how dangerous he was to cross and stated that he felt crossed (he hadn't been actually). Even if someone has an alibi, someone could still have hired a killer. Who was that mysterious person who knocked on the McStays' front door that one night shortly before their disappearance. Was this a "verification check" they had the right house before an actual hit went down?
2. Chase Merritt. Although Baker's book portrays C.M. as the nicest guy in the world and Joseph's most trusted friend, there are problems: C.M. was the last person known to have seen Joseph McStay alive I think we've all seen enough stories like this to know that doesn't bode well. I have read that C.M. has a criminal history but it's in his distant past. The last known phone call made from that Bonsall area where the family vehicle was allegedly parked in the night was to Chase Merritt. According to Baker's book, he never answered that call. I remember early on reports were saying it was a short call that lasted about a minute, as if the call had gone through. This is a discrepancy. If Chase Merritt never answered that phone call, he could have been calling himself from the Bonsall area to establish a "ghost alibi." Baker reveals Chase Merritt was a trusted friend, which could mean a blindspot on Joseph's part if the family was murdered. As Baker says in the book, "We have no way of really knowing if Joseph ever made it home that night." If so, was it C.M. who "made it home" instead and a dark scene played out from there. Baker portrays C.M. as a highly moral individual who even used his own money to go over to Saudi Arabia and finish that last job--as a sort of honor thing. But who does that? Seriously? I'm a moral person but if I'm an employee of a business and my boss might have just taken off or been murdered, why am I going to spend all my own money doing this? It smells fishy to me. Are we sure he didn't collect the 81K, possibly in a manner where the I.R.S. would never see it? L.E. seems to have focused on C.M. early on. I'm not sure if they ever cleared him. Some accounts say the lie detector test he voluntarily took was inconclusive; some say he passed. The problem with C.M. is that I see him as having opportunity and possibly even motive. I don't put much stock in "wife alibis." And even if he was at home, there's still the possibility of a hired assassin (who would probably be Mexican since the family's vehicle was left at the border). I keep coming back to that stranger knocking on the door (or ringing the bell) somewhat late at night. This was a cul-de-sac and I think very few people lived on this street. So...worrisome.
3. Michael McStay. Allegedly borrowed significant amounts of money ($69K?) and allegedly never paid it back. Took the family computer post-disappearance and was ordered under threat of arrest to return it. Was he being a good brother and cleaning up any trails? Was he being opportunistic with the family's assets--or attempting to do so and failing (the attempts to access the funds which fell through). Or was it something more sinister? Was he in collusion with D.K. since both of them moved money in what seems an improper or unauthorized manner into self-serving accounts? How long is it until they can be declared legally dead? Seven years? Will he stand in the line of inheritance then? It's probably small change to what he's made off this case, which has turned into a cottage industry for him. Intuition tells me he's a money grubber and exploitive, but I have trouble seeing him as a murderer. The fact that he never offered any serious reward (a measly thousand bucks) I always interpreted as meaning he knew they were alive and didn't want to hand out 100K to someone when they inevitably slipped up and were verified as all alive and well. But of course it could mean he knows they're all dead. You'll have to draw your own conclusions.
4. Summer McStay. While I believe Summer McStay suffers from borderline personality disorder, and many assert that form of mental illness is often associated criminal types of behavior, I think Summer was a law-abiding citizen except in the smallest of ways (like when she left her child unattended in the vehicle for a few minutes and got cited). She definitely shows the instability, lack of a coherent identity and antisocial behavior which are the hallmarks of borderline personality disorder. She doesn't look bipolar at all to me, and I once briefly entertained the idea she might be paranoid schizophrenic but having read her emails--and seeing her high level of functioning--I'm now convinced only BPD fits with her behavior. All that lashing out at her husband and "being horrible" are parts of the disorder. All the shutting out of people, even loved ones. The alienation with a parent or parents. The aliases. The changes of ethnicity. The home schooling. The home birthing. The avoidance of medical professionals, of everyone. Hide, hide, hide. This is what BPD makes you do. I knew someone with the disorder and in her late forties she was still moving roughly every six months--usually to states very distant from her last habitation. People judge Summer McStays for this but she's not having any fun herself with this condition--it is a living hell--and yet treatment is the last thing she wants. I believe she's always seen Joseph as her safety and that he's always been. I can't see her killing or having her husband killed. If she were a lone wolf type, she would have spent large periods of her life living that way. She hasn't. She likes having a protector, even if she is fiercely independent in her thinking. And if there had been "another man" in her life, Baker would have found the emails. Nothing. So, no other man. That theory's blown. Summer McStay has been demonized. Early on, there might have been reason to do that. Now there really isn't. She is a person dealing with mental illness as best she can and she's probably lived most of her life in fear--fear of her own out-of-control emotions and fear of others.
5. Joseph McStay. Joseph McStay comes across as the most likeable sort of man you could ever meet-- loyal and dedicated, hardworking, creative, trustworthy, smart, a good father and mindful of envirnomental concerns, the "bigger picture." But even saints can snap. His health was apparently failing (he also suffered from asthma) and he seemed to suffer from some undiagnosed condition that was causing him headaches. This could easily have been the HUGE stress in his life--there were so many stressors at that point. Others have posited that it meant Summer was poisoning him. I don't believe that but it's a theory to be entertained. Like all others. The Merida sightings point to a family all together and still alive. And again, no trace evidence was found in the house or the family vehicle. I can't see him doing it. I find this the most unlikely scenario out of the ones I'm presenting here.
6. A Person Committing Murder as a Result of the Child Abuse Charges Filed. This individual was exonerated and it's less common for someone to commit a reprisal murder in those circumstances. It's still possible. This individual would not speak with Baker. Did the police alibi him? Again, there's the possibility of a "hit." I think it's very unlikely.
7. A Random Stranger or Strangers. Could someone have been casing the house? The first painter "disappeared." Baker had heard the reports of illegal immigrants encamped back behind the Fallbrook house. He said he found no evidence of such encampments. Another person insisted the Bonsall area (where the family last stopped) is known for illegal immigrants and illegal activities. I could not find that verified online. Sure, you have illegals seeking citizenship. But to demonize other nationalities ("evil Mexicans killed them") seems cheap and easy. Again, no trace evidence in either the house or the vehicle. Why would a random stranger who plundered care about leaving blood in the house or other evidence? I agree with what the police said on this: usually they just kill you right in the house. They don't go to the trouble of kidnapping you. So, unlikely. And why would the family's bank accounts not have been drained then using either credit/debit cards or some other method. I would expect to see wire transfers into Mexico. The idea that the children were kidnapped for the sex trade seems totally unlikely to me. As others have pointed out, they tend to kidnap blond(e), blue-eyed kids. Plus, it's just the most far-fetched theory out there. And if a stranger kidnapped them, why would the last call have been made to Chase Merritt from the Bonsall area, J.M.'s most trusted business associate. It looks more like a goodbye call before the phones were pitched. Not that the McStays couldn't have been in further communication with Merritt and others through untraceable phones later.
So, with the above scenarios--if the McStays were murdered (and I still believe they're all alive, together and probably in Europe or Australia) who is the most likely individual to have perpetrated this--or to have commissioned it?
D.K. looks like the most likely suspect to me. Temperament. Motive. Behavior post-disappearance. Weird "first person" nature of "No Bodies, No Case." Money taken from accounts. Assumption of false identities to sell fountains he never planned on installing. Sold the business in J.M.'s absence with seemingly no right to do so. The nature and ugliness of previous threats showing his "take no prisoners" attitude.
C.M. had opportunity but I don't see a huge motive. Unless someone can prove he collected that $81k. Because he potentially knew Joseph was planning on taking off, unemploying C.M. in the process. Maybe there was a hidden, seething resentment at this. Maybe he saw this as a betrayal, but hid those feelings from J.M. That unanswered call (he admits he usually answered J.M.'s calls but wanted to "spend time with his wife that night") could have been placed by him to himself as a "ghost alibi." Or, I hate to say this, but hired murderers are known for making follow-up calls to let the person who commissioned the hit that "the deed is done." And initially law enforcement said that was like a minute call. Placed in the Bonsall area, which would be a strange place for the family to stop, according to most. If there were a hired killer, he could have been told to use Joseph's own phone to make the verification call. C.M. needn't even "pick up" if the signal was that a call meant the deed was done. Then the Mexican killer heads to the border, leaves the vehicle and is gone. This worries me because the simplicity of this explanation seems to satisfy Occam's razor.
If this horrible scenario is true, then yes, bodies could be in the Bonsall area. Everyone keeps saying let's search that area thoroughly. But does it ever happen?
And no trace evidence was in the S.U.V.. Were they just marched out of the S.U.V. out in the middle of nowhere and killed outside the vehicle? Was the vehicle cleaned during the missing four days? Then that would have to mean the toys were bought to distract the kids by whom? A killer? Or were the toys there from Thursday? Or does this mean the bodies would actually be much closer to home than people ever suspected? Was the family marched out behind the house? Are there wooded areas? I would assume exhaustive perimeter type searches have been done, but sometimes you're surprised by the answer.
Of course, they could have been kidnapped and held somewhere else, killed somewhere else some time in that four day period and the vehicle cleaned up. Maybe not much clean up to do if the killings were done elsewhere.
I suppose since D.K. and C.M. are the most likely suspects, there is also the possibility they acted in collusion.
This is where the absence of a substantial reward (which could have been publicized in Mexico) would really hurt the case. Until Rick Baker offered a "real reward" there was only that ridiculous thousand dollar amount. And even that said "up to a thousand dollars." The reward might actually be a dollar.
Because if it really were a matter of a hit, people talk, hitmen brag, and that reward would probably seem pretty substantial to someone living a subsistence lifestyle in Mexico. The hitman could have been non-Mexican, of course, and the vehicle placed there as a red herring.
Let me end by saying I do believe they're all still alive and together, but one has to entertain other possibilities in the absence of certainty, and if one entertains such theories the above is how I see the various likelihoods of foul play--who and why.
Would be interested to hear your thoughts on this--and any corrections of course.
There are so many facts out now on this case--sometimes contradicting each other--so are they still facts?
With so many facts, it's easy to make mistakes.
For example, in the Huffington Post article, it was stated that the border crossing video shows the family of four exiting the vehicle and then crossing the border?
Could this possibly be true? I had always been under the impression the border crossing showed only the grouping of individuals (some say four, some say six but I don't see those outer two figures as "with" the grouping of four as some think) crossing the border. I can't see how it could have captured them "exiting from their vehicle" some three hundred yards away.
Can anyone clarify that the Huffington Post article got that wrong?
I would think they did. If they did not, then it increases the likelihood that the McStays voluntarily crossed into Mexico to about 99% or higher.
But I'm assuming that was an error.