Summer, Joseph Jr. & Gianni as Dinosaurs

dino 13

A question was asked on one of the McStay trial forums, and though it was basically ignored there, it caught my attention:

“If the family was killed in the home, why was a child’s backpack found in the graves?”

Just as a reminder, there was a backpack that is believed to have belonged to one or both of the McStay children found in the grave with Summer and Gianni (pictures of Joseph Jr. wearing it are captured in a family photo). The contents of this backpack was a spoon, a small pickaxe and a worn paint brush.

Dinosaur 1

Dinosaur Hunting

These three items are like a trivia question in a quiz-game.

“You find a backpack with these three items inside, what were these items used for?”

For the longest time I thought that the paint brush must be related to whatever painting Summer had been doing the day of the murders/abduction.  It made sense that perhaps if the family weren’t killed in the home, but only taken from there, that the back pack and contents were a way to mollify the children in route.

But after hearing testimony from McGyver McCarger my thoughts on this changed. In his testimony, McCarger explains that the Sunday prior to the family going missing he encouraged them to get to a park, and exercise the kids.  This was so house painting could be completed absent energetic toddlers underfoot. And the suggestion succeeded both in giving McCarger an opportunity to paint, and in calming the kids so when they returned, tuckered-out, more work could be done with them present.

From this testimony and the searches performed on the McStay computer for “Dinosaur Train”-suddenly that backpack and its contents take on new meaning.  (Dinosaur Train is a PBS show for kids, where dinosaurs ride trains and children learn about the species and other kid-stuff, from this implausible but delightful premise.  It’s a really cute show. Dinosaur Train)

Could it be that, the child’s backpack didn’t simply contain random objects, but that it was in actuality a homemade excavating-kit for digging up “dinosaur bones”?

And though I can’t know this for certain, it seems like the inspired creation of an engaged parent.  Just maybe, Summer, observing how much her children loved Dinosaur Train, was furthering the adventure by showing them how one excavates for dinosaur bones.  You dig, you use a pickaxe to loosen any bones captured in rock, and once you have your prize you gently sweep away the sand and debris with a paint brush. [Joseph Jr. and Gianni’s grandmother does confirm on the stand that this backpack full of tools was, in fact, something the boys used to excavate for dinosaur bones (rocks). So, then why was it in the graves if the family was taken from their home deceased? This seems more in keeping with the family being abducted alive.]

A few things about this make-shift kit, if this is what I think it might be.

  • This activity is an outdoor activity, not an indoor activity.
  • It is a daytime activity, not a nighttime activity.
  • And it is the kind of thing a parent thinks to give to a child, not the kind of thing a killer would know to supply.

Joseph McStay was discovered with keys in his pocket. Among the keys for the home and Isuzu, there were two Chateau padlock-keys assumed to be for the shared storage with Chase Merritt.  But they could just as easily have been to the locks for Pods. where most of the McStay belongings were kept at the time they went missing.

Does the presence of the keys, coupled with that of the backpack, relate an entirely different story of what activities the McStays were engaged in just prior to their disappearance?

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  1. Could there have been a plan on Friday morning the 5th to take the children out to a park, hunt for dinosaur bones, in order to get them worn out before the rain came. And it was overcast in the morning, rain expected by the afternoon.
  2. Could there have also have been a plan to retrieve items from the Pod storage containers, perhaps a gift for Joseph Jr.’s birthday, which would have taken place on the very next day, on Saturday?
  3. Would the weather that day explain why the clothing that the family would normally have worn, i.e. Uggs, knit caps, etc. were left at their home?  Perhaps rain gear was worn instead.
  4. Would the overcast morning explain why Summer wore her regular prescription glasses, leaving her prescription sunglasses at home?
  5. Could the child seats have been transferred from the Dodge to the Trooper, either the evening of the 4th or the morning of the 5th?*
  6. When was the toy kitchen placed in the back of the Trooper and could it have been retrieved from the storage pods the morning of the 5th?

Don’t know.  But it seems as if that Friday morning the McStays could still have been alive.  And that they left their home of their own accord, perhaps to give the kids some outdoor playtime before it rained, and that they were intercepted somewhere else.  I have no idea how or by whom they would have been intercepted, but this possibility exists.  And it does seem plausible in light of evidence known now, that we in the public were not made aware of before trial.

*Would Joseph have left Summer without child seats for the Dodge on that Thursday Feb. 4, 2010?  (Joseph knew he would be away for at least three hours, and there were rumors that Summer did leave the home and shop that afternoon at Ross.  Wouldn’t responsible parents, like Joseph and Summer, have made certain that the parent driving the children had the child seats in their vehicle?)

On an unrelated note: Another odd find in the graves is the towel below.  This is a specific brand that is usually purchased on-line or at locations like Costco.  Was this brand in keeping with other towels owned by the McStays?

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JR United

27 thoughts on “Dinosaurs

  1. I can’t believe how many questions I still have this far into trial.

    If the McStays were abducted from their home, why are the child seats in the Trooper?

    If the family is killed there is no need to place child seats in that vehicle, and those seats must have resided in the Dodge, given the McStay family dynamic, of Summer being the stay-at-home parent, and Joseph being the parent who ventured out more for business, sans kids. If Summer is the primary with the kids, wouldn’t the child seats always have been in the truck? Or usually have been?

    Joseph knew he was going to be away for at least three hours on Feb. 4. And the chances were great that he would be gone longer. Would he really have left Summer without child seats? Chances are those child seats were not in the Trooper when Joseph went to meet with Chase.

    Why would someone kidnapping the family in their own vehicle, move the child seats from the Dodge to the Trooper?

    The DNA in the Trooper could be only Joseph, Summer and Chase’s. But because the kid’s DNA is a combo of both parents, some of the trace DNA might be from them-Joseph touching the kids, then touching an object. How often was Summer in that Trooper? Drinks only have Joseph’s DNA, so if the family did go out for a morning excursion on Friday the 5th, why isn’t there more indication of Summer’s presence? But if the family is killed the night of the 4th, why are there seemingly fresh drinks in the trooper-again, with only Joseph’s DNA on the mouth-rims?

    Why did Joseph have his checkbook with him?

    If Chase is telling the truth, the checks he got were the checks for the computer. But even if, he’s not being exactly truthful, there are no handwritten checks from Joseph to Chase, written after Tuesday the 2nd, so why, if Joseph planned on seeing Chase that Thursday (and no one else) would he have his checkbook for handwriting checks with him?

    Between the Trooper and the graves there is this perplexing combo of items-

    1)Coffee (usually a morning drink, but definitely not always.)
    2) Water
    3) Checkbook
    4) Camera (but then the McStays had cameras everywhere)
    5) Joseph’s Meds
    6) Child’s Toy Kitchen In Back (this was under a cloth as if being hidden.)

    1) Keys in Joseph’s pocket (for Trooper; Home; storage locks (2))
    2) A backpack, (that contains items for an outdoor child’s activity.)

    When did the objects in the Trooper get there? When was that play-kitchen placed in the back, etc. Wouldn’t Joseph have brought water and coffee containers in each night to clean? The glass water bottle is almost full, as if it had just been filled, or barely touched. How much coffee was in the coffee container? Was it a fresh cup of coffee or one that was mostly consumed?

    The graves are absent all ID, phones, yet the glove case for one phone is left there. Shoes and coats are absent, but then given how shallow the graves are, perhaps this was out of necessity. It wouldn’t be that hard to discard those items someplace else, possibly even the dump that is in easy distance of the graves.

    Nothing about the items in the grave or in the Trooper really make sense if this is an abduction, unless you assume the family was taken without coats and shoes, but how can we be sure of this? Clothing can be discarded after the family is killed.

    And then the other question would be, if the killers abducted the family from the home without shoes and coats, why did they bother to take Summer’s prescription glasses. No coats or shoes allowed, but you can wear your glasses?????

    1. That’s a good question about the backpack. If the family is dead why the backpack. You’re right. Makes no sense.

      1. A lot of what was found at the two known crime scenes doesn’t make sense. No matter when the family is abducted or killed, why is the checkbook in the Trooper? Why is there an almost full bottle of water there?

        And yes, why would that backpack be with the family if they are killed in the home?

        Summer’s glasses might have been broken when she was attacked. So the absence of those might be explained by the attack on her. But the other stuff…nothing about the “remainders” the artifacts left behind, tell a story of the family being killed first, then moved. The story that is related is of the family leaving in the Trooper, just as they normally would, and being intercepted somewhere else.

        I’ve never bought into the theory of this being a hit, but what else could it be. Unless this crime is somewhat random?

  2. I don’t think Joey would have left his coffee cup in the car overnight. He seems like a guy who would clean at the end of the day. Maybe that shows that they went out in the morning.

    1. It’s interesting that he was drinking Jana. And a glass bottle. Jana isn’t really in the mainstream of bottled waters. It’s sourced from Croatia. And the bottle looks almost full. We don’t know how much coffee was in the coffee mug. There was only Joseph’s DNA on both those drinking containers.

      You have the drinks, which look, relatively speaking, fresh. The check book and the card with bank accounts. There are the child seats which we don’t know how often were kept in the Trooper, since Joseph used the Trooper for business and his errands–and if the child seats were kept in the Trooper that would leave Summer without those seats when Joseph was away.

      Lots of indications that the McStays ran errands that morning.

      This is feeling more and more like a hit.

      1. Could Joey have reused his water bottles. Mayeb he ran errands first and came home and the killers were there.

        1. In every video of the family that Joseph takes, there is never the sound of a cell phone ringing. And all of these videos were taken after Joseph began EIP. Those videos show that there were times when Joseph was not on the phone. That he shut if off, because there isn’t even a ring tone heard.

          Also, in looking at Joseph’s phone logs I saw the same pattern. There were times when it would appear that Joseph turned his phone off. Summer’s phone I can’t know, those records have never been published. But it does seem possible that after a long hard week, and still more work to get done, Joseph Jr.’s birthday on Saturday, it might be that the family decided to get to a park and run some errands before the rain came that Friday. And it was scheduled to rain.

          And then something happened. I really wonder if one of the errands was to respond to a Craigslist add, or meet someone, could even have been Dan, to give them a check.

          1. Also the brother and the friend who helped paint the house said that it wasn’t unusual for the McStays to be hard to reach. That they could just leave on vacation and not tell anyone.

            1. Something interesting I found when looking through the phone logs was how often Dan K. phone Joseph the week before the family went missing. And all but one call is Dan calling Joseph. He called a few times at midnight, and they have one call on 1/23 that is an hour and half. Wonder what that was about.

    1. I don’t think the wedding rings were ever discovered. I’m not sure how many of the hand bones were found. There may have been other jewelry as well that was missing.

      And the check book in the Trooper is bugging me. Why would that be there? Were the child seats in the Trooper on Thursday? Was the coffee cup something that Joseph always had with him, or did he only drink coffee in the mornings?

      Comprehensive profiles on victims in cases like this would be so helpful. Beyond just a victimology.

  3. I was thinking this morning about the lore on this case. And wondering if past mistakes bled into the current investigation. The idea that the vehicle captured on the neighbor’s surveillance being relevant to the family going missing was likely established by the knowledge that Joseph would back the Trooper into the drive.

    And once those headlights were thought to be related, even when it was determined that the vehicle could not be the Trooper, the lore of a relationship of those lights to the case, remained. Even though that truck may have absolutely nothing to do with this case.

    I think it’s worth scratching all previous theories, and looking at the evidence with fresh perspective.


  4. Was Summer’s DNA found on any of the items in the Trooper. Like on the coffee cup? Water bottle?

      1. Would it make sense that they were all in the car that morning? Wouldn’t her DNA be somewhere?

        1. That’s a good point. But Summer’s DNA is found in trace amounts in certain locations. And we don’t always leave DNA. It’s also possible if Summer brought a water bottle, that this was gotten rid of by the killers. Not to hide anything, but we know that there are items belonging to Joseph and Summer that weren’t found in the residence, but were also not found in the graves-like the Google phones, wallets, purse , ID, credit cards, that sort of thing. And if the family was wearing coats and shoes appropriate for rain, those are also missing.

          Not sure if we know about all the DNA in that Trooper, either.

    1. That’s an interesting question. When I thought this family disappeared on the night of the 4th, I just assumed Joseph took his check book with him to the meeting with Chase in case he needed to handwrite a check. But would Joseph have kept his checkbook in his car all the time? Maybe, if the family did go out that morning, there was someone Joseph needed to see and give a check to at some point. Maybe there was a pre-arranged meeting somewhere.

      1. Could someone have followed them? Doesn’t this seem like it could have been a hit?

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