Man who killed the McStay family sentenced to death

Friends of the McStay family erected memorial crosses at the site where the family remains were discovered in a remote desert area outside of Victorville, California.

The man convicted of killing a California family of four and burying them in the Mojave Desert nearly 10 years ago has been sentenced to death, San Bernardino County Superior Court Judge Michael A. Smith announced in court on Tuesday.

Charles Ray Merritt, 62, was found guilty on four counts of first-degree murder in June in the deaths of Joseph and Summer McStay and their children, Gianni, 4, and Joseph Jr., 3.

Merritt was a business associate of Joseph McStay. He read a statement at the sentencing saying McStay was a big part of his life and his family's life and he would never have hurt him in any way. Merritt also repeatedly criticized prosecutors.

He remained unexpressive as he watched six friends and family members deliver their emotional victim impact statements.

His defense attorney Rajan Maline told reporters outside the courthouse that the decision was a miscarriage of justice and that he believes Merritt is innocent.

"There is no evidence to convict Mr. Merritt. It is shocking that we're in this position today," Maline told CNN by phone.

Merritt's daughter Taylor Jarvis said she is focused on proving that her dad is innocent.

"We're ready to keep fighting. We're going to stay behind him," Jarvis said.

The judge has rejected Maline's motions for a new trial.

The family went missing in February 2010. Their bodies were found in a shallow grave in the Mojave Desert in 2013, about 100 miles north of their San Diego home. They had died of blunt force trauma, according to police.

The family's disappearance long puzzled investigators, who said there were no signs of struggle at their Fallbrook home. Food had been left out and the dogs were home.

Merritt was arrested in 2014. The jury spent about a week deliberating the case before convicting him last year.

CNN's Jenn Selva, Stella Chan and Eric Levenson contributed to this report.

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