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EarthLink – News

Helicopter crashes on roof of NYC skyscraper, killing pilot
By JIM MUSTIAN and JENNIFER PELTZ | Mon, June 10, 2019 10:11 EDT
NEW YORK (AP) — A helicopter crashed on the roof of a rain-shrouded midtown Manhattan skyscraper Monday, killing the pilot and briefly triggering memories of 9/11, after an erratic trip across some of the nation’s most restricted airspace. Authorities said they did not suspect terrorism.
The crash near Times Square and Trump Tower shook the 750-foot (229-meter) AXA Equitable building, sparked a fire, and forced office workers to flee on elevators and down stairs, witnesses and officials said.
The pilot was the only person aboard, and there were no other reports of injuries, authorities said.
It was not immediately clear what caused the crash, or why the Agusta A109E was flying in a driving downpour with low cloud cover and in the tightly controlled airspace of midtown Manhattan. A flight restriction in effect since President Donald Trump took office bans aircraft from flying below 3,000 feet (914 meters) within a 1-mile (1.6-kilometer) radius of Trump Tower, which is less than a half-mile (0.8 kilometers) from the crash site.
“There’s something mysterious here,” Mayor Bill de Blasio told CNN, saying officials were scrutinizing video of a “very erratic” flight and authorities needed to find out more about the pilot at the time he decided to take off.
One lawmaker called for “non-essential” helicopter flights over Manhattan to be banned.
The pilot, identified by his employer as Tim McCormack, was a former fire chief in upstate Clinton, New York. With 15 years of experience flying helicopters and single-engine airplanes, he was certified as a flight instructor last year, according to Federal Aviation Administration records.
The East Clinton Volunteer Fire Department posted on Facebook that McCormack’s “technical knowledge and ability to command an emergency were exceptional.”
The 19-year-old helicopter was linked to a real estate company founded by Italian-born investor Daniele Bodini, according to FAA records.
The helicopter went down about 11 minutes after taking off from a heliport along the East River, a little more than a mile (1.6 kilometers) away. Police Commissioner James O’Neill said it may have been returning to its home airport in Linden, New Jersey.
The director at Linden Municipal Airport, Paul Dudley, described McCormack as “a highly seasoned” and “very well regarded” pilot who was a regular at the airfield.
He suspects that a mechanical problem or the weather “overwhelmed him and the helicopter,” Dudley said. “I believe he tried to get on the roof and spare the people on the ground.”
McCormack, 58, chronicled some of his helicopter flights on his Facebook page, including a 2014 emergency landing caused by a bird strike. He had been conducting a sightseeing tour over Manhattan when the bird penetrated the windshield of his Bell BHT 407, causing McCormack to land unexpectedly at the West 30th Street Heliport.
“It was pretty much like an explosion going off in your cockpit,” McCormack told television station WABC at the time.
The crash happened shortly before 2 p.m. Monday, when clouds obscured the roof of the building. Rescue vehicles swarmed to the scene a few blocks from Rockefeller Center.
Pedro Rodriguez, a pastry line cook at Le Bernardin, a well-known restaurant in the AXA Equitable building, said workers got an announcement telling everyone to exit, and he later heard from people around him that there was a fire on the roof.
The evacuation was not chaotic, Rodriguez said, but he was rattled because he immediately thought of the Sept. 11 attacks.
“It’s scary when something like this happens,” he said.
Videos posted by onlookers showed emergency vehicles in the street, but no obvious damage to the skyscraper. The fire department later tweeted a photo of the helicopter’s wreckage that showed piles of burned debris on the roof.
“If you’re a New Yorker, you have a level of PTSD, right, from 9/11. And I remember that morning all too well. So as soon as you hear an aircraft hit a building, I think my mind goes where every New Yorker’s mind goes,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters.
Working for a bank on the building’s seventh floor, Kendall Sawyer felt a shake — “jarring enough to notice,” but workers weren’t sure what it was, she said.
Then came an announcement that the situation was being looked into, and a few minutes later, an instruction to evacuate, without explanation, she said.
“It was a little bit crazy, a little bit scary” as workers walked down the stairs, she said.
A block south, lawyer Lance Koonce heard a loud sound he thought could be a low-flying helicopter. From his 21st-story window, he looked up and saw smoke.
“I couldn’t tell if the smoke preceded the helicopter coming over, or if it was from the helicopter crashing into the building,” he said.
Trump tweeted from Washington that he had been briefed on the crash. Cuomo’s office said the president and governor had spoken.
The National Transportation Safety Board was sending an investigator.
In Washington, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, a Manhattan Democrat, called on the Federal Aviation Administration to ban “non-essential” helicopter flights over Manhattan, as she did after a previous crash.
“Why should some tour guide be able to endanger the lives of people by flying over probably one of the most densely populated areas in the world?” she asked. “It doesn’t make any sense at all, and it should have been banned long ago.”
The city currently allows helicopters to take off and land from three heliports, one each on the East and West sides and in downtown Manhattan. All of the facilities border rivers.
It was once more common for helicopters to take off from private Manhattan rooftops, the most famous of which was on the tower then known as the Pan Am building. In 1977, four people waiting on the roof were killed when a helicopter toppled over and a rotor blade broke off and hit them. A fifth person, a pedestrian, was killed by falling debris.
That spurred a push to close down private helipads.
Still, the city has seen a string of helicopter accidents since. The most recent was just last month, when a chopper crash landed in the Hudson River near a busy Manhattan heliport. The pilot escaped mostly unscathed.
Five people died when a sightseeing helicopter crashed into the East River last year. Three people died in another crash into the same river in 2011. Back in 2009, a sightseeing helicopter collided with a small plane and killed nine people not far from the scene of Monday’s mishap.
In 2006, New York Yankees pitcher Corey Lidle’s single-engine plane slammed into the 20th floor of a building on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, killing Lidle and his flight instructor. It was not clear which one was piloting the plane.
The National Transportation Safety Board concluded the pilot misjudged a narrow U-turn before veering into the building.
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Associated Press writers Michael R. Sisak, Deepti Hajela, Tom McElroy and Kiley Armstrong in New York and Michael Balsamo in Washington contributed to this report.

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How Britain’s Conservatives will choose their next leader
Mon, June 10, 2019 01:49 EDT
LONDON (AP) — Britain’s Conservative Party is holding a contest to replace Prime Minister Theresa May, who stepped down from the party helm last week after failing to deliver Brexit.
All Conservative lawmakers can run to lead the party if they have the backing of at least eight of their colleagues. The winner will become both party leader and prime minister.
Here’s a look at how the contest will unfold:
MONDAY JUNE 10:
Party officials announce the names of 10 lawmakers who have been nominated to run for the top job, including Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Environment Secretary Michael Gove, Home Secretary Sajid Javid and Boris Johnson, a former foreign secretary.
THURSDAY JUNE 13:
The 313 Conservative lawmakers vote in the first elimination round. Any candidates who get less than 5% of the votes leave the race; if all meet the threshold, the lowest-scoring candidate is eliminated.
JUNE 18:
Lawmakers hold a second round of votes, with the last-placed contender — or any who fail to secure 10% support — dropping out.
JUNE 19 AND 20:
Further rounds are held if needed, with the last-placed candidate eliminated each time until only two remain. The final two candidates are put to a postal vote of the full party membership across the country — about 160,000 people.
WEEK OF JULY 22:
The winner is announced. The new party leader will also become U.K. prime minister.

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AP FACT CHECK: No sign of Trump-Mexico deal on farm goods
By HOPE YEN, JILL COLVIN and CALVIN WOODWARD 12:41 EDT
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is bragging about a new deal with Mexico that provides for “large” sales of U.S. farm goods, but it doesn’t appear to exist.
In weekend tweets, he announced in all capital letters that he had won the agreement to benefit America’s “great patriot farmers,” and that U.S. sales would begin “immediately.” There isn’t any sign of that happening, however. Mexican officials denied that anything on agriculture was included in the deal on border security reached Friday to avert Trump’s threatened tariffs.
Trump also unfairly placed responsibility on Mexico for the entire U.S. drug problem, even though many of the known drug deaths have nothing to do with the country.
The statements came in a week where the apportioning of credit and blame often went awry in Trump’s remarks.
He hailed pristine air quality that isn’t, wrongly insisted that the U.S. was paying “close to 100%” of NATO and told Puerto Ricans they should love him because he got them hurricane aid that he’s actually been complaining about for months.
In the Democratic presidential campaign, meantime, Trump was accused of breaking a gun-control promise that in reality he kept.
A look at recent claims and reality:
MEXICO DEAL
TRUMP: “MEXICO HAS AGREED TO IMMEDIATELY BEGIN BUYING LARGE QUANTITIES OF AGRICULTURAL PRODUCT FROM OUR GREAT PATRIOT FARMERS!” — tweet Saturday, retweeted Sunday.
THE FACTS: There’s no evidence that Mexico agreed to “large” purchases of agricultural products from the U.S. as part of the deal to avoid tariffs. Nor did the White House provide any details to show such a deal exists.
The joint declaration between the U.S. and Mexico released by the State Department late Friday makes no mention of agriculture. Officials from Mexico deny an agreement was reached on farm goods as part of the talks.
“Everything that was negotiated was in the joint statement,” said a Mexican official familiar with the discussions who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. When Mexico’s ambassador to the United States, Martha Barcena, was asked repeatedly Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation” whether there was a new agricultural deal, she demurred, saying such trade between both countries should increase over time.
She referenced instead the potential impact of the separate United States-Mexico-Canada trade deal, which has yet to be approved by Congress.
“Is trade on agricultural products going to grow? Yes, it is going to grow, and it is going to grow without tariffs and with USMCA ratification,” Barcena said.
According to the office of the United States Trade Representative, Mexico bought $20 billion in U.S. agricultural goods last year, making it the United States’ second-largest ag export market.
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TRUMP: “Look, I’m dealing with Mexico right now. They send in $500 billion worth of drugs, they kill 100,000 people, they ruin a million families every year if you look at that. That’s really an invasion without the guns. … 100,000 people are killed, dead every year, from what comes through our southern border. They shouldn’t be allowing people to come through their country from Central, from Honduras and Guatemala, El Salvador.” — Fox News interview Thursday.
THE FACTS: Trump is inflating the death toll from drug overdoses — more than 70,200 in 2017 — and wrongly blaming all the known deaths on Mexico. Tens of thousands of those deaths have nothing to do with Mexico or Central America. They are from legally made prescription opioids, fentanyl laboratories in China or other sources of international drug smuggling and illicit manufacturing in the U.S. More than 17,000 of the deaths in 2017, for example, were from prescription opioids alone.
Mexico is indeed a significant conduit in the drug trade — it’s a leading source of heroin, for example — but it is hardly the only one.
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DISASTER AID
TRUMP, on signing a relief bill for multiple U.S. disasters: “Puerto Rico should love President Trump. Without me, they would have been shut out!” — tweet Thursday.
THE FACTS: That’s not likely.
The $19.1 billion disaster aid bill, passed by the House on Monday and signed into law by Trump on Thursday, ordinarily would have been approved by Congress months ago. But Trump injected himself into the debate, demanding that money for hurricane-rebuilding efforts that was sought by Puerto Rico’s elected officials, Republicans and Democrats both, be kept out.
Trump frequently inflated the amount of aid that Puerto Rico had obtained in previous bills and feuded with the island’s Democratic officials.
Congressional Democrats held firm in demanding that Puerto Rico, a territory whose 3 million people are U.S. citizens, be helped by the measure. The legislation ultimately included more money for Puerto Rico, about $1.4 billion, than Democrats originally sought.
The relief measure delivers money to states in the South suffering from last fall’s hurricanes, Midwestern states deluged with springtime floods and fire-ravaged rural California, among others.
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NATO
TRUMP: “We were paying so much. I think we were really paying close to 100% of NATO. So we were paying to protect all of these European nations. And it’s just not fair.” — interview Thursday with Fox News.
THE FACTS: It’s not true that the U.S. was paying “close to 100%” of the price of protecting Europe.
NATO does have a shared budget to which each member makes contributions based on the size of its economy. The United States, with the biggest economy, pays the biggest share, about 22%.
Four European members — Germany, France, Britain and Italy — combined pay nearly 44% of the total. The money, about $3 billion, runs NATO’s headquarters and covers certain other civilian and military costs.
Defending Europe involves far more than that fund. The primary cost of doing so would come from each member country’s military budget, as the alliance operates under a mutual defense treaty.
The U.S. is the largest military spender but others in the alliance obviously have armed forces, too. The notion that almost all costs would fall to the U.S. is false.
In fact, NATO’s Article 5, calling for allies to act if one is attacked, has only been invoked once, and it was on behalf of the U.S., after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
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CLIMATE CHANGE
TRUMP, asked if he believes in climate change: “I believe that there’s a change in weather, and I think it changes both ways.” — interview with Piers Morgan that broadcast Tuesday.
THE FACTS: Trump is once again conflating weather and climate, suggesting that global warming can’t be happening if it gets cold outside. But weather is like mood, which changes daily. Climate is like personality, which is long term.
The data show Trump also is wrong in that there is a clear one-way warming trend. Earth is considerably warmer than it was 30 years ago and especially 100 years ago.
So far in this decade, there have been 301,292 daily heat records set in the contiguous United States, compared with only 141,892 daily cold records set, according to retired Weather Channel meteorologist Guy Walton’s analysis of government temperature records. That’s more than two heat records broken for every cold record, a ratio that is the largest of any decade since these types of records started in the 1920s.
According to Walton’s analysis, each decade since the 1970s has had a higher hot record-to-cold record ratio than the decade before it.
And that’s just the extreme weather. When it comes to global average temperature, April was the 412th consecutive warmer month than the 20th century average, according to records kept by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The last five years — 2014 to 2018 — have been the five hottest years on record globally, according to those records. Nine of the 10 hottest years on record have been in the past 15 years with records going back to 1880.
The White House in November produced the National Climate Assessment by scientists from 13 Trump administration agencies and outside scientists. “Climate change is transforming where and how we live and presents growing challenges to human health and quality of life, the economy, and the natural systems that support us,” the report said.
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TRUMP: “We have the cleanest air in the world in the United States, and it’s gotten better since I’m president. We have the cleanest water. It’s crystal clean and I always say I want crystal clean water and air. … We’re setting records environmentally.” — remarks Wednesday with Ireland’s Prime Minister Leo Varadkar.
THE FACTS: The U.S. does not have the cleanest air, and it hasn’t gotten better under the Trump administration.
U.S. drinking water is among the best by one leading measure.
Trump’s own Environmental Protection Agency data show that in 2017, among 35 major U.S. cities, there were 729 cases of “unhealthy days for ozone and fine particle pollution.” That’s up 22% from 2014 and the worst year since 2012.
The Obama administration, in fact, set records for the fewest air polluted days, in 2016. In 2017, after Trump took office, the number of bad air days per metropolitan area went up 20%.
The State of Global Air 2019 report by the Health Effects Institute rated the U.S. as having the eighth cleanest air for particle pollution — which kills 85,000 Americans each year — behind Canada, Scandinavian countries and others.
The U.S. ranks poorly on smog pollution, which kills 24,000 Americans per year. On a scale from the cleanest to the dirtiest, the U.S. is at 123 out of 195 countries measured.
On water, Yale University’s global Environmental Performance Index finds 10 countries tied for the cleanest drinking water, the U.S. among them. On environmental quality overall, the U.S. was 27th, behind a variety of European countries, Canada, Japan, Australia and more. Switzerland was No. 1.
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GILLIBRAND ON GUN CONTROL
SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND, Democratic presidential candidate, on Trump: “Remember after the shooting in Las Vegas, he said, ‘Yeah, yeah, we are going to ban the bump stocks’? Did he ban the bump stocks? No, because the NRA came crashing down and said, ‘Don’t you dare do any restrictions on our guns around this country.”’— Fox News town hall on June 2.
THE FACTS: Not true. Trump kept his promise.
A nationwide ban took effect in March on bump stocks, the attachment used by the gunman in the 2017 Las Vegas massacre to make his weapons fire rapidly like machine guns.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives outlawed the attachments at Trump’s direction after the shootings killed more than 50 people in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. It is the only major gun restriction imposed by the federal government in the past few years.
The Trump administration’s move was an about-face for the bureau. In 2010, under the Obama administration, it found that the devices were legal. But under the Trump administration, officials revisited that determination and found it incorrect.
After the Las Vegas shootings, the National Rifle Association initially said “devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully-automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations.” After the bureau’s ruling banning the devices, however, the gun lobby called it “disappointing” and said it should have provided amnesty for gun owners who already have bump stocks.
The government estimates that more than 500,000 bump stocks were sold after they were made legal in 2010.
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VETERANS
TRUMP, on the late Sen. John McCain: “I was not a fan. I didn’t like what he did with health care. I didn’t like how he handled the veterans. Because I got them Choice. He was always unable. He was on committees and could have done it.” — interview Tuesday with Morgan.
THE FACTS: Not so. McCain did, in fact, get the Veterans Choice program passed in Congress.
Trump repeatedly claims falsely that he was the first president in decades to get such a private-sector health program passed. But what Trump actually got done was an expansion of the Choice program achieved by McCain and Sen. Bernie Sanders, the main lawmakers who advanced the legislation signed by President Barack Obama.
McCain, an Arizona Republican, co-sponsored the legislation following a 2014 scandal at the VA medical center in Phoenix, where some veterans died while waiting months for medical appointments.
Trump signed the law expanding the program in June 2018. It is named after three veterans who were lawmakers — McCain, Daniel K. Akaka and Samuel R. Johnson.
After helping to pass the program, McCain fought to expand it even more in his last months before dying of brain cancer in August.
The original Choice program allowed veterans to see doctors outside the Department of Veterans Affairs system if they must wait more than 30 days for an appointment or drive more than 40 miles (65 kilometers) to a VA facility. Under the expansion, which took effect Thursday, veterans are to have that option for a private doctor if their VA wait is only 20 days (28 for specialty care) or their drive is only 30 minutes.
Still, the VA says it does not expect a major increase in veterans seeking care outside the VA under Trump’s expanded program, partly because wait times in the private sector are now typically longer than at VA.
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LONDON PROTESTS
TRUMP: “I kept hearing that there would be ‘massive’ rallies against me in the UK, but it was quite the opposite. The big crowds, which the Corrupt Media hates to show, were those that gathered in support of the USA and me.” — tweet Wednesday.
TRUMP: “I heard that there were protests. I said: ‘Where are the protests? I don’t see any protests.’ I did see a small protest today when I came, very small, so a lot of it is fake news, I hate to say. …And I didn’t see the protesters until just a little while ago and it was a very, very small group of people.” — news conference Tuesday with British Prime Minister Theresa May.
THE FACTS: The protests over Trump’s visit were more than just “very, very small,” and some were hard to miss.
Thousands of protesters crowded London’s government district, chanting as he met May nearby. While police erected barricades to stop protesters from marching past the gates of Downing Street, they could be heard as Trump and May emerged from the prime minister’s official residence to pose for photos before their news conference.
The protests included a giant Trump baby balloon and a robotic likeness of Trump sitting on a golden toilet, reciting familiar Trump phrases like “No collusion” and “You are fake news.”
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BREXIT
TRUMP, referring to how he stood at his Scottish golf resort, Turnberry, on the eve of the Brexit referendum and predicted the British would vote to leave the European Union: “I really predicted what was going to happen. Some of you remember that prediction. It was a strong prediction, made at a certain location, on a development we were opening the day before it happened.” — news conference Tuesday.
THE FACTS: He often tells this false story.
Trump did not predict Brexit the day before the vote.
Three months before the vote, he did predict accurately that Britain would vote to leave the EU. The day after the 2016 vote — not the day before — he predicted from his Scottish resort that the EU would collapse because of Britain’s withdrawal. That remains to be seen.
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TRANSGENDER TROOPS
TRUMP, explaining his ban on transgender troops in the military: “In the military, you’re not allowed to take any drugs …People were going in and then asking for the operation, and the operation is $200,000, $250,000, and getting the operation, the recovery period is long, and they have to take large amounts of drugs after that …You can’t do that.” — interview Tuesday with Morgan.
THE FACTS: Trump has offered no substantiation for the assertion that transgender military members represent tremendous medical costs and disruption. A Rand Corp. study found otherwise. Nor does the military bar troops from using prescription drugs.
Rand estimates that out of about 1.3 million active-duty military personnel, 2,450 are transgender. Only a subset would seek transition-related care, such as hormone therapy and sex-reassignment surgery. Based on private insurance data, the study estimates a minimal increase in costs from such care for the active-duty armed forces — no more than 0.13%, or $8.4 million annually.
As for disruption, members representing less than 0.1% of the total force would seek transition-related care that could affect their deployments, the study says.
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Associated Press writers Peter Orsi and Christopher Sherman in Mexico City, Seth Borenstein, Andrew Taylor, Matthew Perrone and Darlene Superville in Washington, Lisa Marie Pane in Boise, Idaho, Nicky Forster in New York, and Jill Lawless and Kevin Freking in London contributed to this report.
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Find AP Fact Checks at http://apne.ws/2kbx8bd
Follow @APFactCheck on Twitter: https://twitter.com/APFactCheck
EDITOR’S NOTE _ A look at the veracity of claims by political figures

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Bill that set off big protest to go to Hong Kong legislature
Mon, June 10, 2019 11:26 EDT
HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong’s leader says a highly controversial extradition bill will proceed to the territory’s legislature.
Carrie Lam’s comments on Tuesday came after hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory over the weekend to protest the legislative proposal that would allow criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China. The protest appeared to be Hong Kong’s largest in more than a decade and reflected growing apprehension about relations with the Communist Party-ruled mainland.
Lam said the government had considered concerns from the private sector and altered the bill to improve human rights safeguards.
The full Hong Kong legislature is expected to resume debate on the amendments on Wednesday, and a vote is expected this month.

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California man guilty of killing family of 4 found in desert
By AMY TAXIN | Mon, June 10, 2019 06:38 EDT
SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (AP) — A Southern California man was convicted Monday of bludgeoning a couple and their two little boys to death, then burying their bodies in a remote desert area where the crime remained hidden until an off-roader stumbled across skeletal remains.
After a trial that spanned more than four months and depended largely on circumstantial evidence, jurors in San Bernardino found 62-year-old Charles “Chase” Merritt guilty of the first-degree murders of business associate Joseph McStay, McStay’s wife, Summer, and the couple’s 3- and 4-year-old sons.
Merritt closed his eyes and looked down when the court clerk said the word “guilty” the first of four times. Sobs came from the packed courtroom. Someone called out, “Yes!”
Prosecutors said Merritt killed the family with a sledgehammer at a time when he owed McStay money and was being cut out of the victim’s business making and selling custom water fountains.
The jury also found the special circumstance of multiple murders.
The judge scheduled the penalty phase to begin Tuesday. Prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty.
Prosecutors declined to comment after the verdict, and families on both sides left without speaking to reporters.
The McStay family vanished in 2010.
Authorities found bowls of uneaten popcorn at their San Diego County home, which had no signs of forced entry, and their car parked at a strip mall near the Mexico border.
For years, officials couldn’t determine what happened to the McStays. At one point, investigators said they believed the family had gone to Mexico voluntarily, though they couldn’t say why.
In 2013, their bodies were found in shallow graves in the desert after an off-road motorcyclist discovered skeletal remains in the area. Authorities also unearthed a rusty sledgehammer that they said was used to kill the family.
“It was blow, after blow, after blow to a child’s skull,” prosecutor Britt Imes said during closing arguments.
Merritt, who worked with McStay in his water features business, was arrested in 2014.
Authorities said they traced Merritt’s cellphone to the area of the desert gravesites in the days after the family disappeared and to a call seeking to close McStay’s online bookkeeping account.
Merritt referred to McStay in the past tense in an interview with investigators after the family vanished, and while the evidence linking him to the killings is largely circumstantial, it is “overwhelmingly convincing,” Imes said.
Merritt’s attorneys said the two men were best friends and investigators overlooked another possible suspect in the killings. Instead, they said, authorities zeroed in on an innocent man, but the evidence didn’t add up, noting there were no signs of an attack inside the family’s home.
“They tried his character and not the facts of this case,” defense attorney James McGee told jurors.
Many questions still remain about the family’s disappearance. Prosecutors acknowledge details of the killings aren’t entirely clear but say the evidence from the family’s car, cellphone towers and financial accounts link Merritt to the killings.
Authorities said McStay was cutting Merritt out of the business in early February and the two met on Feb. 4 in Rancho Cucamonga, where Merritt lived at the time.
Prosecutors say financial records show Merritt tried to loot the business bank accounts just before and after the family disappeared and backdated checks to Feb. 4, knowing it was the last day anyone had contact with McStay.
Phone records show McStay called Merritt seven times after the Feb. 4 meeting, with defense lawyers arguing that McStay wouldn’t likely do that if he had just fired Merritt.

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