Ken Aranda, brother of Summer McStay, surrounded by TV news cameras
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.)