SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (KTLA) -- Charles "Chase" Merritt, who was convicted of killing a family of four and burying their bodies in the Mojave Desert, was sentenced to death on Tuesday afternoon.
Merritt was found guilty in June of the murders of his former business associate Joseph McStay, McStay's wife Summer, and their 4- and 3-year-old sons, Gianni and Joseph Jr. Prosecutors say he bludgeoned them with a sledgehammer.
San Bernardino Superior Court Judge Michael Smith was scheduled to sentence Charles “Chase” Merritt to either death or life in prison without possibility of parole on Friday, but it was delayed.
The four family members vanished from their home in northern San Diego County in 2010. Their disappearance puzzled investigators until 2013, when an off-road motorcyclist found skeletal remains in shallow graves in the Mojave Desert in San Bernardino County, about 100 miles north of the McStay home.
In one grave, authorities unearthed a rusty 3-pound sledgehammer they said was used to kill the family.
Merritt was arrested the following year. Authorities said they believed Merritt killed the family as McStay was cutting him out of his business making and selling custom water fountains.
California has not executed anyone since 2006. Voters approved a ballot measure to speed up executions in 2016. But last year, Gov. Gavin Newsom placed a moratorium on executions while he's in office.