Two of the four bodies discovered earlier this week in a remote area outside Victorville have been identified as Joseph and Summer McStay, who along with their two young sons have been missing since 2010, authorities said.
Speaking at a news conference on Friday, San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon said the adult victims had been identified through dental records.
“We believe the other two sets of remains are that of the boys, their sons,” McMahon said, adding that DNA from those remains would be sent for confirmation to the Department of Justice, which has records of the McStay boys’ DNA information.
“The manner of death has been determined to be homicide,” McMahon said. He said officials were not prepared to disclose information regarding the cause of death, pending autopsies and further investigation.
Several of the McStays’ relatives attended the news conference. Michael McStay, Joseph’s brother, choked back tears as he addressed the media.
“It gives us courage to know that they’re together and they’re in a better place,” he said. “It’s been a tough road, so we would ask that you give the family members their space and let us go through the grieving process.”
Earlier Friday, Joseph McStay’s father, Patrick McStay, told the Los Angeles Times that San Bernardino County sheriff’s officials had notified a family member of the identification on Thursday.
The elder McStay added that he believes the other skeletal remains, which have yet to be positively identified, are those of his grandsons, Gianni, 4, and Joseph Jr., 3.
The four missing family members disappeared more than three years ago after moving from south Orange County to Fallbrook, in San Diego County.
The last known contact with the McStays occurred on Feb. 4, 2010, authorities said. Two days later, Joseph’s and Summer McStay’s mobile phones reportedly went dead.
The family’s SUV was found two blocks from the U.S.-Mexico border, officials said.
Surveillance video at the border later showed a man and a woman walking into Mexico, each holding the hand of a child, according to the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department. The family in the video matched the description of the McStays, sheriff’s officials said.
“Whether or not they actually crossed the border and then came back, we’re not sure. It’s too early in the investigation,” McMahon said.
The bodies were discovered Monday morning by an off-road motorcyclist in a remote area of northeast of Victorville, authorities said.
Deputies were dispatched to the desert area between Quarry Road and the 15 Freeway, north of Stoddard Wells Road, after the motorcyclist reported possible skeletal remains, according to a statement issued by the San Bernardino County Sheriff-Coroner.
Coroner investigators were called to the scene and confirmed that the remains were human, the statement said.
The investigation continued on Tuesday, when officials with the sheriff’s Homicide Detail and Coroner Department responded to the location.
“At this point, we have no idea how long they’d been there,” McMahon said Friday. An initial statement from the Sheriff’s Department said the remains had been at the location “for an extended period of time.”