Four bodies found in a pair of shallow graves have been identified as those of a missing Fallbrook family.
The announcement Friday by Sheriff John McMahon has set off a murder investigation that dates back to 2010 when Joseph and Summer McStay and their two small children disappeared from their home.
McStay’s brother, Michael, wept during a news conference
The victims, excavated Tuesday and Wednesday from two shallow graves in an outlying area of Victorville, will be examined by a forensic team, including an anthropologist, at least one pathologist and an odontologist, San Bernardino County coroner’s officials said.
An autopsy had not yet been scheduled on Thursday afternoon.
“The most important component of this is identifying these remains,” San Bernardino County sheriff’s spokeswoman Jodi Miller said.
Investigators plan to gather DNA samples to submit to the Combined DNA Index System — a database that contains DNA profiles from crime investigations. They’re also taking a look at missing persons cases.
So are some online discussion groups.
Discussions on the Victorville case appear on sites such as websleuths.com and Facebook, where conjecture abounds about who these people could be.
But authorities aren’t speculating on who the victims were.
“This is a standard death investigation and until we know who they are we aren’t going to speculate as to their identity.” sheriff’s spokeswoman Cindy Bachman said.
And that investigation could take a while, she added.
“We have to do an investigation and that takes time,” she said. “An identification and family notification has to be made, and a cause of death has to be determined. It’s time consuming.”
Sometimes it takes months or even years before identification could be made, Bachman said.
“The victim may not have had their identifying information put into a database,” she said. “We may not have immediate access to a family member for a DNA comparison.”
On Thursday, the desert gravesites were the focus of curious looky-loos.
Joel Myers, 51, and Allen Gadban, 20, both of Adelanto, decided to make the drive to the area to see the holes.
They walked around a while in the warm sun, peering inside the now vacant sites.
Myers said he was “amazed” when he heard about the burials on television.