Hearing in California family murder case delayed

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SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (AP) — A preliminary hearing was postponed Tuesday in the case of a man accused in the deaths of four members of a California family who mysteriously disappeared from their home.

San Bernardino County Superior Court Judge Michael A. Smith delayed proceedings until Friday because the prosecutor was sick and defendant Charles "Chase" Merritt, 58, may retain a defense attorney.

Merritt, who has been representing himself, also arrived at court without his case file because of a jail mix-up. He has denied the charges.

The preliminary hearing, which will determine if there's enough evidence to send the case to trial, could reveal what prosecutors believe the motive to be.

Joseph McStay, 40; his wife, Summer, 43; and their sons, 4-year-old Gianni and 3-year-old Joseph Jr., vanished in February 2010.

The family's skeletal remains were discovered three years later in a shallow desert grave in Victorville, nearly 100 miles north of their San Diego County home.

Merritt was a business associate of Joseph McStay, who designed and installed home water features. Merritt owned a waterfall company.

When Merritt was arrested in November, authorities said they believed the family was killed in their Fallbrook home on the day they disappeared.

Investigators said there were no signs of forced entry at the home, nothing was missing, and the couple's credit cards and tens of thousands of dollars in bank accounts were untouched.

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