The high-profile search for the missing McStay family of San Diego County came to an end as two of the four skeletal remains found just north of Victorville this week have been identified as belonging to the couple, sheriff's officials confirmed today.
Joseph McStay, 40, his wife, Summer, 43, and their two sons, Gianni, 4 and Joseph, 3, vanished from their Fallbrook home, about 45 miles north of San Diego, in February 2010.
San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon said the remains of two people belonged to Joseph McStay and his wife, and the additional remains are suspected to belong to their children.
McMahon said the manner of death is suspected to be homicide.
Joseph McStay's brother, Michael, cried during a press conference at Sheriff's Department headquarters in San Bernardino.
"It gives us courage to know they're together and they're in a better place," he said.
San Bernardino County Deputy Coroner's Investigator Bob Hunter said he contacted the Department of Justice about missing four-person families after the remains were discovered Monday.
Officials advised Hunter to obtain dental records for the McStay family.
Hunter said the records matched the family, whose remains had been buried in two graves that were one to two feet deep.
The Sheriff's Department received a call Monday from an off-road motorcyclist after some of the remains were unearthed, possibly by wildlife, off Stoddard Wells Road near Victorville, sheriff's officials said.
"There were obvious signs of wildlife activity in the close proximity of the graves," sheriff's spokeswoman Jodi Miller said.
Once the discovery was confirmed to be human remains, sheriff's homicide investigators found what they believed to be two shallow graves. A 30-hour excavation of the site began.
Sheriff's officials close to the investigation confirmed at least one of the remains taken out of one of the grave sites had been bound with an electric cord.
San Diego County sheriff's detectives and FBI agents from the San Diego office suspected the family had crossed the border into Mexico at the time of their disappearance and left of their own free will.
On Wednesday, workers excavated an approximately 10-foot-by-10-foot area in High Desert scrubland sifting through dirt for bones and other evidence.
"This is an active and ongoing investigation," Miller said at that time, adding that it appeared the remains had been there for a long time.
The area sits west of the 15 Freeway and consists of small rolling hills with no homes or businesses nearby.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.