Thursday, February 3, 2011
FALLBROOK — Mike McStay tries to remain focused each day, being a good husband, raising three young daughters, running his fire-protection business in San Clemente and preparing the family for the adoption this summer of two young orphans from Ghana.
But for the past year, he has been haunted wondering what happened to his beloved older brother, who vanished a year ago Friday along with his wife and their two young sons.
The home of Joseph and Summer McStay on Avocado View Lane in Fallbrook is in foreclosure and empty, its contents distributed among family members. Nearly $100,000 remains untouched in a checking account that Joseph McStay had, his brother said.
The family’s young dog, a puppy when they disappeared, is being cared for by a friend. Summer McStay’s mom has the family’s older dog at her Big Bear home.
There have been no phone calls, text messages or e-mails from the family. The last credible lead on a possible sighting, which proved unfounded, came in October, Mike McStay said.
He maintains a website — mcstayfamily.com — with information about Joseph McStay, now 41; Summer, 44; and their children, Gianni, 5, and Joseph Jr., 4. The brother posts messages to them, like one Monday on the fourth birthday of his youngest nephew. Their disappearance baffles him.
“Joe just doesn’t do this kind of stuff,” McStay said. “He’s the guy that puts money away for a rainy day. He’s always been very wise with money, always good with people. … He’s just steady.”
McStay said the website gets about 4,000 hits a day. Although most people have been compassionate, some feedback has been negative. People have speculated that the parents must have had ties to the Mafia, or to a religious cult, suggestions McStay finds absurd.
“These are just normal, everyday Americans,” he said. “This is a loving family.”
Sheriff’s homicide Detective Troy DuGal is in charge of the case, working with the FBI and law enforcement in Mexico, where it is believed the family might have traveled to when they disappeared. He said he receives several tips a week and follows up on all of them.
“I am very hopeful this case will resolve,” DuGal said Thursday. “I am also very hopeful that it resolves soon. The longer this case remains open, the more concerned I become that the McStays may be victims of foul play.”
Four days after the McStays disappeared, their white 1996 Isuzu Trooper was found abandoned in a parking lot near the San Ysidro border crossing, child seats inside. The vehicle was paid for, as was the truck Joseph McStay used for his custom water-fountain business.
Records on the family’s computer show that the week before they vanished inquiries were made about passport requirements for traveling with children to Mexico. They also had a Spanish-language educational disc, DuGal said.
A grainy U.S. Border Patrol surveillance video shows two adults with two young children walking toward a turnstile into Tijuana at the San Ysidro pedestrian crossing on Feb. 8, the same day the Trooper was found. McStay said it’s so fuzzy it’s impossible to say if it was his brother. DuGal said it is “likely” that it is the McStays.
“The physical evidence indicates it is probable the family left the residence voluntarily and traveled into Mexico” for unknown reasons, DuGal said. “I am confident the McStays have not traveled out of Mexico unless they are using an assumed name.”
In May, a restaurant worker in the central Baja California town of El Rosario thought the family dined there and left a map. The map did not have their fingerprints. In October, a family matching the description of the McStays was seen at an Ensenada hotel. They turned out to be from Canada.
Grasping for answers, McStay said he has not ruled out that the family might be hiding in protective custody for some unknown reason, though law enforcement officials have rejected that theory.
McStay said he accepts that the odds of the family being alive decrease by the day. But like DuGal, he won’t give up.
Relatives also still place ads about the McStays with newspapers and radio stations in Baja California.
“I don’t expect to stop until I find out what happened to my family, period,” McStay said. “We’re just asking for help, for someone that knows something to just come forward.”
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