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Did the police rush to judgement on what happened to the McStay’s?

It has been over a week since Joey and Summer McStay’s remains were identified.   Many are anxiously awaiting for some news to break and continue to theorize on this website on who could have done such a horrible deed.

Already we are seeing a totally different attitude from the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department (SBSD) than from the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department (SDSD).

Patrick McStay, told me just last week,  “SDSD Jan Caldwell said they are still standing by their original claim that my family walked into Mexico.”

Mike, Joseph and Patrick McStay

This is contrary to what SBSD Sheriff John McMahon has said which is, “they [SBSD] don’t believe they ever went to Mexico.”

“I can’t believe someone would (as I believe) tell such a blatant lie,” said Patrick referring to Caldwell’s statement.  “It just shows their arrogance and unwillingness to admit they were wrong from the start.  CYA!!!  Why aren’t the public and all the news media all over that!”

Patrick, who has a constitution like a dog-with-a-bone, constantly was checking up on his family’s case with the police and sharing information that he found with the SDSD, but instead of them welcoming his input or answering his questions they stopped talking to him altogether.

I think that it became a general consensus with the police that the family voluntarily left, so anything coming from Patrick was bollocks.  In other words, they were right so there was nothing more to talk about nor investigate.

Patrick felt he had no where else to turn and filed a complaint to the department’s internal affairs division about the investigation in 2011.  Nothing came of it and the communication between him and the lead investigator on the case became non existent.

Patrick stated the SDSD “botched the case,” and says that to this day the SDSD has yet to contact him and tell him it was his family that was found in Victorville.

Martin Hill of asked the SDSD to response to Patrick’s claim and he received this:

“Thank you for contacting our office for clarification.

Inasmuch as the remains of the McStay family were recovered in Victorville – the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department’s jurisdiction – it was incumbent upon them to notify the next of kin. I know they did seek – and speak with family, and as to specifically whom, I would not be able to say. While this was our missing persons’ investigation, it is now the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department’s homicide investigation. We have transferred our investigative files to them, and our detectives were on scene. They will continue to work together.

As to any complaint Mr. McStay may have filed with us, that would be confidential, and I am unable to make any comment.

Clearly, this is not the outcome we had hoped for, but we are optimistic this will yield valuable leads to find who is responsible. I can also tell you this was one of the most extensive missing persons’ investigations our department has been involved with. The detectives worked exhaustively to cover hundreds of leads. Bank records, financial records, phone records, as well as computer searches were conducted, as well as interviews of neighbors, friends and co-workers.

Thanks you for your inquiry-
Jan Caldwell 
Public Affairs Director 
San Diego County Sheriff’s Department”

So, let’s talk about those bank records, financial records, etc., they looked at.  Patrick has shared some of that to followers on his Facebook page and after you read some of the documentation, you can’t help but wonder why someone wasn’t arrested or at least named a person of interest long ago.  To read his information and to still continue to believe they went to Mexico to start a new life is impossible.  So, how come the police did?  We may never know.

Marilane Abueg

Patrick is patiently waiting for the SBSD to contact him so that he can share all the information he has researched and gathered.   It will be interesting to see if the SBSD finds his information useful where SDSD did not.

And, Patrick is not the only one that is complaining about “botched cases” lead by the SDSD.  Signon San Diego reported back in October 30, 2011, that the murder of Marilane Abueg ended in a hung jury and then a dismissal by the San Diego Superior Court because the “sheriff’s Department failed to investigate the case for nine years after Marilane’s body was found.”   Wells, the Judge on the case stated “clear negligence” by sheriff’s detectives for failing to do even the most basic investigation when the crime occurred,” reported Sign On San Diego.”  Benny Abueg, Mailane’s father stated at the time he did not believe detectives pushed hard enough to solve his daughter’s killing.

Rebecca Zahau and Jonah Shacknai

Another case that many feel need to be re-investigated is the Rebecca Zahau case, which was ruled suicide.   The SDSD stated she committed suicide by jumping off the balcony of the Spreckles’ Mansion where her boyfriend lived, but many feel that the investigation was incomplete and she was murdered because she was found with her arms and legs tied.  The reenactment that News 8 did shows the bed moving 7 inches from the wall.  A reenactment that the police did not perform themselves.

UPDATE  7/31/15 –  Attorney C. Keith Greer, filed a $10m civil amended lawsuit claiming that Dina Shacknai, the mother of Max who died in an accident in the house days before Rebecca did, and Nina Romano, Dina’s twin sister and Adam Shacknai, Johan Shacknai’s brother were named in the wrongful death lawsuit that was originally filed in 2013.  The amendment stated that Dina and Nina confronted Rebecca at the mansion and it escalated into an attack.  Also, new evidence that was obtained after Rebecca’s body was exhumed showed she had received four blows to the head, which was never put in the original county’s autopsy report.  The duct tape residue found on Zahau’s legs were never explained during the original autopsy and the most unexplained and unusual finding being exposed is that Rebecca had a “tugboat hitch” knot around her neck.  Adam Shacknai was a tugboat captain.    This is very important as the original autopsy used the lack of a struggle as the bases or her death being suicide.  It would seem to me that if someone was unconscious or dead, they would not struggle also.

The riddle written on the inside door of the room where Rebecca was found hanging said, “She saved him can you save her.”   Who “she” or “her” is, is unknown.  But, what if Rebecca lied for someone so they would not be found guilty for something?  Would that be saving someone?

“I don’t think any jury looking at this will say that is was a suicide.” said Greer.

There is also many who do not agree with the SDSD findings on the Hannah Anderson case. Sheriff Gore stated early on that Hannah was a victim in every sense of the word.

Hannah Anderson

CBS 8 News reports that there was one known surveillance video the police never picked up that showed Hannah and DiMaggio together located at the Mountain Top Market in Boulevard and there was also three other surveillance cameras that could have had video on them.  One at the Golden Acorn Casino in Boulevard, across the street from Sweetwater High School where DiMaggio supposedly picked up Hannah on August 3, and the surveillance video from Sweetwater High School where cheer camp was that day.  The principal said detectives never picked up a video, let alone talk to any school officials regarding the incident.  Why not?  Probably because the police had already decided the case was closed, so why bother to go get the videos.

UPDATE 7/31/15 – Keith Greer has filed a $20m lawsuit for wrongful death of Jim DiMaggio on the behalf of his sister Lora Robinson.  Click here to read the whole story.  

But, you cannot have an impartial conclusion to a case unless you have all the facts and without those videos of Hannah and DiMaggio, you do not have all the facts.  Without Patrick’s information, you do not have all the facts.  Without a search around Bonsall Bridge you do not have all the facts, without interviewing family members, co-workers or neighbors who might have seen or heard something the day Abueg disappeared, you do not have all the facts.

A rush to judgement to close a case and move on to the next one without fully answering the family’s suspicious, let alone the public’s and thoroughly investigating a case, seems to be the connection between these four cases.

Patrick and his family told the SDSD over and over again that their conclusion that the family voluntarily left was wrong, but the SDSD years of police experience seemingly trumped the family’s personal feelings.  How else could they say that a grainy video showing the back of people’s heads was without a doubt the McStay’s walking across the border, when the family told them it was not.  We can only imagine how it would have been different if the police had believed Patrick and the rest of his family.  Maybe an aerial search would have been done and maybe the family would have been found years ago, leaving them a much warmer trail to follow to a killer than what they have now.

Patrick’s biggest worry now is, “how many more families will agonize for months or years longer than necessary because of another botched case by LE?”

I wanted to add I saw the news tonight that was talking about the McStay’s being on the cover of People Magazine next week.  During the interview, Patrick said, “There should be a law that no one can be labeled voluntarily missing.” 

I wanted to explain a little more what he is talking about, because he has a point.  I did a story on 18 missing men in San Francisco just two weeks ago.  What I found was that every single one of the missing men were labeled voluntarily missing.  I thought it was strange and then read the San Francisco Police Department’s policy.  The policy states they will investigate all persons reported missing until the person is found or determined to be a voluntarily missing adult.  In other words, once the police categorizes someone as voluntarily missing, the investigation stops.

A person should never be classified as voluntarily missing UNLESS there is a board that makes that decision.  It is my personal opinion to leave that to one sole individual is leaving the policy open to misuse.

Please note that James “Jamie” Ronald Peters was only 19 when he went missing from El Cajon 1988.  Read more here.

11 thoughts on “Did the police rush to judgement on what happened to the McStay’s?

  1. Thank you Jerri Dean, and MPOA, for being a voice for the victims and their families. Perhaps you can lead the charge to change the laws in regards to missing teens and adults. How many others are out there lost or dead because LE wouldn't listen to their family members? It is not just SDSD, there are law enforcement agencies across the country that assume 'runaway' or 'voluntary missing' status whenever the person is a teen or adult, thus causing the loss of valuable evidence and information necessary to catch and convict kidnappers, rapists and murderers.

  2. I can understand in the case of runaways why it might be difficult for Law Enforcement to follow every single lead, especially if the teen has crossed state lines. But just as there are Amber alerts, I think when a person, and certainly when an entire family goes missing, in the inexplicable manner that the McStays did–no matter what the theories, the case should be treated as a crime. Sometimes the smallest evidence is the most important. Had the McStay home been locked down and scoured for information, something that at first appeared insignificant, might have proven invaluable. And certainly all theories regarding foul play should have been vetted. The pressure needs to stay on law enforcement here. This is what we pay them for.

  3. Could you please state what your credentials are. Where did you take your journalism classes and since you seem to now be comparing the action the police have taken on certain cases, where did you get your crime solving education. One thing I have seen since the McStay case began is the whole world thinks they are better detectives than those trained to solve cases. Between you, Rick Baker and Patrick McStay, you have now made statements with nothing to back them up. But please, I digress, before I comment, please tell me what your background is, what makes you the new authority on the handling of these various cases, I am sure your readers are as interested as I am.

  4. I could easily say, that it is none of your business, but you have done a lot of assumption and have based your opinion of me without knowing a thing about me. I have a unique combination of 15 years of federal law enforcement experience combined with 5 years of experience reporting on news. I have also been privy to information where I can not divulge my sources. Believe me, Patrick has piles of documentation to back himself up, which I think is apparent by reading anything I have written about Patrick. Where RB gets his info I do not know as no family member is speaking to him and have publicly come out and denounced him, plus he has never had any law enforcement background or training which would decreases the likelihood that he has ever formed a friendship or professional relationship with LE that would lead them to speaking to him about the case. So, since you have decided to remain anonymous, I have no clue who you are and why you are attacking me. Why are you offended by all the hard work and fair reporting I have done?

  5. I don't believe in coincedences – like that family of 4 crossing the border shortly after the McStay vehicle was left near the border. The man looks nothing like Joseph McStsy, but the woman and children do look like Summer and the kids. Has anyone considered the remote possibility that is Chase Merritt and Summer and the kids crossing the border to make it appear as if the family crossed into Mexico on their own?

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