Ken Aranda, brother of Summer McStay, surrounded by TV news cameras
  • Ken Aranda, brother of Summer McStay, surrounded by TV news cameras
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After a memorial service in Laguna Nigel, about 100 family members, friends, and those who never knew Fallbrook’s McStay family, showed up at the San Clemente Pier for a memorial paddle-out on January 4.

The McStays — husband and wife Joey and Summer and their young boys Gianni and Joey Jr. — disappeared from their home in February 2010. After their car was found abandoned in a San Ysidro border crossing parking lot, the family became the subject of an international search, with reported sightings as far away as Ecuador and Thailand.

Long after the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department turned over the investigation to the FBI, the family’s bodies were found on November 11, 2013, in shallow graves in the high desert near Victorville.

While Joey’s mom, Susan Blake, passed out orchid petals to all the viewers on the pier and asked each to pray for her son, 25 surfers circled up in the water, held hands, said a prayer, and then hit the palms of their hands on the water over and over — the splashing symbolizing the release of the victims’ spirits.

A 12-year-old surfer who came from North County said he wanted to represent the McStays' two children, who never got to experience surfing. Gianni was four years old; Joey Jr. was three.

TV cameras surrounded Ken Aranda, brother of Summer, when he arrived on the beach. He said he wanted to put the incident behind him and his family; the paddle-out would bring closure to the horrific and unexpected turn of events last November.

The McStays had moved from their longtime coastal south Orange County home to Fallbrook three months prior to their disappearance. The family reportedly had spent much time on the beaches of San Clemente.

Fourteen-year-old surfer Hunter Mase, a former neighbor, use to babysit the kids. He said both parents worked a lot and he'd just hang out to make the kids laugh. "The kids loved the beach," he said.

Lisa Summers was friends with Summer McStay’s sister. She said the McStays were a loving Christian family that always showed the love they had for each other. She added, “No one would have thought it would end this way. We all hope they find the persons responsible.”

Lindsey Cooper said that it is not up us to seek vengeance; it will be the Lord’s vengeance. “But it is okay for us to want justice,” said Cooper, a former roommate of both Joey and Summer.

Not much was said about the ongoing investigation being conducted by the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, which has remained rather silent on the issue.

An extended family member, who asked not to be identified and said he was speaking on his own and not for the family, emphatically stated that the McStays were not involved in any criminal activity, but rather, he believes, chosen at random by a former employee.

He also stated many questions remain unanswered but believes the sheriff’s department is purposely withholding information to possibly expand the criminal investigation, perhaps into Mexico. He also believes when the family’s vehicle was found it was “clean,” as in no DNA, not even a hair.

The other questions he had were about the death of the children. “What were they wearing?” he inquired. “If it were pj’s, then the parents wouldn’t have known they were going somewhere. If the kids had on jackets, then they would have known." (Time of disappearance was around 7:00 p.m. In February; it would have been dark and colder in the rural area of their Fallbrook home, off I-15 and Highway 76.)

One question has puzzled not only this reporter but many others as well: why hasn’t the name of the motorcycle rider, who reportedly found the graves, surfaced anywhere? The family member stated he doesn’t believe there was a motorcycle rider. He believes someone involved gave up the gravesite’s location in exchange for some kind of deal with law enforcement.

(corrected 11/7 3:25 p.m.)

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Comments

Kedril Jan. 5, 2014 @ 7:15 p.m.

Ok, so now here is yet another story supposedly by an extended family member claiming some strange ex-employee murdered them at random. :( The stepfather still looks like the best candidate. Oh, or was he the one commenting?

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Ken Harrison Jan. 6, 2014 @ 10:26 a.m.

The step father? I meet a step father at the paddle out. I don't know if he's THE step father you refer to. This step-dad I met was like Mr. Rogers. I would bet my life that none of the family was involved.

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Visduh Jan. 6, 2014 @ 7:53 a.m.

Ken, you raise a good question about the identity of the person(s) who sent the cops to the grave site. The cops know much more than has been shared with the public. But there are some very odd aspects to the story. It appears that they were fleeing their home, meaning that they knew something bad was in store, yet sought no help from law enforcement.

That comment from the "family member" about the killing having been done by a former employee who chose them "at random" is nonsensical. If it was a former employee it wasn't random. If it was random, then it was done by a stranger for motives so far unknown. Some times folks say the strangest things.

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Ken Harrison Jan. 6, 2014 @ 10:38 a.m.

The family member said many other things about the possible former employee, in that he may have "randomly" taking advantage of his knowledge of the McStay's business for illegal gain - being that Joey McStay did business in Mexico. I believe when the case is closed and the bad guys are behind bars, we will learn the entire story, and finally be told that the McStay's were not involved in any criminal activity, but their deaths were the result of really bad guys doing really bad things to lots of people. I believe it will all be Mexican drug cartel related, something we citizens have refused to accept - that Mexico's corruption and crime has crossed into the US.

It was however, inappropriate for me to ask further questions at this ceremony. I just reported what he was willing to share.

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Visduh Jan. 6, 2014 @ 4:26 p.m.

Ken, I've always figured that this had something to do with drugs, and the cartels in particular. My take is that they took off from the house that evening because they were very, very afraid. Of what, who knows? They didn't seek help, but fled. How far did they get? Maybe not far at all.

For a long time, I've accepted the idea that Mexico's crime and culture of corruption have crossed the border. Just look at the school district corruption in So County, and you see that the culture has taken root here. It can be very much worse than just bribes and favors, such as we know about there.

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Ken Harrison Jan. 6, 2014 @ 4:45 p.m.

It is far too often that we hear on our local morning news of a body being found in a burning car in the South Bay, or on the side of the street, with of course, no follow up as to who, why, etc. But we all know, don't we.

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SoCalGal1 Jan. 6, 2014 @ 7:33 p.m.

Ken, you do know that the man you referred to as Mr. Rogers - the step father - is a convicted felon -- that he falsely imprisoned and beat the crap out of a woman. That's a matter of public record. You do also know that in the past week the stepfather has sent a threatening message to Patrick McStay (it's posted on his website) and Blink On Crime (also posted) which she referred to Law Enforcement. Are you also aware that prior to their disappearance Mr. Rogers threatened SM in writing? A real sweetheart this Mr. Rogers! As for the anonymity of the motorcycle rider, it's the law - the individual has a right to privacy until such time as either he or she decides to reveal themselves, if ever, or until such time as a criminal action against the perpetrators is started. A simple call to SB Sheriff's office could have cleared this up for you. Great reporting!

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lms Jan. 6, 2014 @ 9:49 p.m.

SoCalGal, Remember PM was Joey's stepfather. MMc was not Joey's stepfather.

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Sir_real Jan. 7, 2014 @ 2:50 a.m.

I believe Tom Blake is the stepfather Ken Harrison is referring to.

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Ken Harrison Jan. 7, 2014 @ 9:51 a.m.

Thanks everyone, you're keeping this story trending on the Reader's most popular stories! I'm not sure who all the individual family members are, but the man that was ID'd to me as "a" stepfather was very nice and got along with each of the other family surfers. They helped him with catching some waves. I doubt the man described in the comments would be welcomed at this event, based on the actions others have reported. If you must know who I am referring to, he his the gray haired-man in the paddle-out photo the right of center, just pushing himself up on his board. And for you jump-to-conclusion readers, he is not the family member that spoke to me anonymously about the opinions on this case. As far as the motorcycle rider, while it may be the law for anonymity, in this day and age of FB, etc., one unfortunately does not get to choose when they are thrust into their 15 minutes.

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Kedril Jan. 7, 2014 @ 11:17 a.m.

Ken, I think the SBSD would be interested in who told you this theory/story. The man described in the comments was most certainly welcome at this event. In fact, Joseph McStays own father, Patrick, was asked not to come become he outed the guys past criminal record and told the news he was one of his suspects for the McStay murders. Perhaps you don't know that a news piece was written about Mr. McFadden (he is a stepfather but not the one you are talking about) and his violent assault on a former female partner. http://www.760kfmb.com/story/24235590/mcstay-murder-mystery-who-is-michael-mcfadden . Purportedly he threatened Summer McStay and possibly the whole family over a CPS case filed against him. I'm sure you did not go to the memorial as a crime reporter so I am curious if this 'family member' just offered up this story and where did he come up with this idea.

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Ken Harrison Jan. 7, 2014 @ 10:30 p.m.

Yes, he just walked up and we started talking. He knew I was a reporter, but I promised him I would not ID him nor assume any comments were other than his own opinion. I'm sure the SBSD knows all they need to know until further investigation brings more answers. I was not intending to write about the tragedy, only the ceremony, but he was so informative in his thoughts, I couldn't let it go by. Its stuff I never knew or read about previously.

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Kedril Jan. 7, 2014 @ 11:20 a.m.

I'm curious about this...

"While Joey’s mom, Susan Blake, passed out orchid petals to all the viewers on the pier and asked each to pray for her son..."

Did Susan also ask them to pray for her grandsons? I doubt she asked anyone to pray for Summer, but the above struck me as odd.

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Ken Harrison Jan. 7, 2014 @ 10:37 p.m.

There were tons of people on the pier that had no idea what was going on and were all looking over at the circle. After the circle started to break up, she went down the pier crowd very quickly passing out petals. Surely she shouldn't be expected to tell the whole tragic story to everyone. Most people as soon as someone said "the family that disappeared," everyone knew the story. Must have been 100 non-family tourist types that stopped to watch. I was honored she stopped and gave me some. I was also honored to see how a family came together to try to move forward. Although I think most of their tears were shed at the memorial service earlier.

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