Friends of the man accused of bludgeoning a young Southern California family to death are having a hard time believing man they know could commit such a brutal crime.
Despite his arrest Friday morning, friends and family of Charles Chase Merritt, 56, of Apple Valley say there's no way he could have murdered anyone.
Merritt appeared in court Friday afternoon, charged with killing his former business partner, Joseph McStay, his wife Summer McStay and their two young children. The family went missing in 2010 and their remains were discovered in a shallow desert grave north of Victorville last year.
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Outside the courthouse, the suspect’s brother, Bennett Merritt didn’t want to talk about Charles Chase Merritt.
But another family member, who did not want to be identified, said investigators have arrested the wrong man. She said he would never hurt anyone.
"They're trying to hang Charles,” she said. "He's a good guy he'd never do this."
Allison Moye, an Apple Valley resident, said she’s known Merritt for years and that he never once mentioned anything about the McStays.
"Chase was actually a real pleasant cowboy type,” she said. “He used to love to dance so I'd see him at all the country bars all the girls wanted to dance with him."
Moye played on a billiards team with Merritt in the high desert, just miles from the McStays burial site. She said she never thought he could be capable of killing anyone.
"He was never violent. He never started a fight or anything, ever. Just nice quiet Chase, that's it," she said.
In an interview last year with MailOnline.com, Merritt allegedly said he was previously considered a suspect because he was the last person to see Joseph McStay alive, and the last person Joseph called before the family disappeared.
Merritt also claimed investigators gave him a lie detector test and he passed.
Joseph McStay’s mother Susan Blake was in court, along with other family members including Joseph’s brother Mike, who spent years tirelessly looking for his brother’s family.
Blake says the arrest is a relief, but it’ll never bring back their loved ones.
"I wanted him to see my face,” she said of Merritt. “Just know what the pain he's put us through. I wanted him to look in my eyes.”