March 11th, 2010
08:55 PM ET

Video may show missing family walking into Mexico


[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/03/11/missing.fam.surveillance.jpg caption="A frame of surveillance tape that may show a family missing for more than a month from California."]

Gabriel Falcon
AC360° Writer

Surveillance tape may possibly show a California family missing for more than a month casually crossing into Mexico, authorities said.

The images were recorded on February 8 at the San Ysidro border checkpoint, the San Diego Sheriff’s Department said. The tape, which runs 1:28, was posted on the department’s YouTube channel.

Police indicate a man and woman appear from the lower left of the screen at approximately 30 seconds into the video. “Each is holding the hand of a child. The woman is wearing a light colored jacket with dark trim,” police said.

Sgt. Dave Martinez of the department’s homicide detail told CNN the four individuals could be Joseph McStay, 40, his wife, Summer, 43, and their two children, Gianni, 4, and Joseph, 3, who have not been seen or heard from since vanishing from their San Diego area home on February 4.

According to Sgt. Martinez, the hats worn by the children in the security tape “are apparently their trademark.”

“This might be the family going into Mexico,” Martinez said in an earlier interview with CNN “We can’t confirm it. We can’t rule it out because the footage is kind of grainy and it’s under ambient light. It’s dark with the shadows. It can be difficult. But it’s a possibility based on the size of the individuals.”

The SUV belonging to the McStays was found two blocks from the San Ysidro border on February 8, the sheriff’s department said. "It was processed with a search warrant," Lt Dennis Brugos of the San Diego Sheriff’s Department said. "There was nothing in the car ... suggesting that this was some criminal act."

The McStays' home is in Fallbrook, an unincorporated area about 45 miles north of San Diego. The sheriff's office said evidence at the family home "suggested that the family had not left on a planned vacation" and that "the totality of the circumstances surrounding their disappearance was quite out of character for the family." Brugos said the McStays' two dogs were left at the home unattended and without food or water. "I think there were some food items left out that should have been refrigerated," Brugos said.

Investigators are working with Mexican authorities and running leads in the hopes of locating the family, Martinez said. He and the other investigators assigned to the case remain baffled over the family’s disappearance.

“This is a big mystery to me," Martinez said. “I couldn’t tell you one way or another. It’s possible they voluntarily went to Mexico. There is nothing to indicate foul play.”

However, Martinez said it is uncharacteristic for the family not to keep in contact with friends and loved ones.

“We want to make sure that the family is okay,” Martinez told CNN. “We would love to hear from them to ensure that they are safe.”

Michael McStay, the brother of Joseph Stay, said he has reviewed the checkpoint security tape and could not make a positive identification.

“Careful reviews of the video shows that there are of two or three different families passing by, one with a little girl actually, and the other with a man who walks nothing like my brother,” McStay wrote on a blog entry for http://www.mcstayfamily.com, the web site he created to finding them.

“We do know that a sweet, loving family is missing and the leads are few and far between,” he wrote. “We know that the community has showered us with emails, concerns, and offers to help. We know that the Detectives are hard at work on this case. We know that cases like these bring out the best in many people and the worst in a few others.”

Joseph McStay is 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighs 175 pounds. He has brown hair and brown eyes. Summer McStay, also known as Lisa Aranda-Martelli, is 5 feet 5 inches tall and 115 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes.

Anyone with information on the whereabouts of the McStay family is urged to contact Sgt. Dave Martinez of the San Diego County Sheriff's Department at 858-565-5200. Anonymous calls can be made to 888-580-8477.

For more crime coverage go to cnn.com/crime.

Filed under: Crime & Punishment • Gabe Falcon
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