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California man declared guilty of killing family of 4 found in desert

SAN BERNARDINO, California: 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…

California man declared guilty of killing family of 4 found in desert

SAN BERNARDINO, California: 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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Prince Harry’s wife Meghan returns to Canada amid royal storm

LONDON: Prince Harry’s wife Meghan has returned to Canada following the couple’s bombshell announcement that they were quitting their frontline royal duties, their spokeswoman said on Friday. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex spent an extended Christmas break in Canada with their baby son Archie, before returning to break the news that has rocked the…

Prince Harry’s wife Meghan returns to Canada amid royal storm

LONDON: Prince Harry’s wife Meghan has returned to Canada following the couple’s bombshell announcement that they were quitting their frontline royal duties, their spokeswoman said on Friday.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex spent an extended Christmas break in Canada with their baby son Archie, before returning to break the news that has rocked the royal family.
“I can confirm reports that the duchess is in Canada,” the couple’s spokeswoman told AFP, without providing further details.
The Daily Mail newspaper reported that the royals left eight-month-old Archie with his nanny in Canada when they flew to Britain earlier this week.
It said Meghan, a former US television actress, headed back to rejoin him on Thursday and “she may stay there for the foreseeable future.”
An unnamed source was quoted as saying by the domestic Press Association news agency the duchess had traveled to the UK “to attend some meetings” before returning to Canada
Senior royals were caught off guard by Wednesday’s announcement that the couple wanted to “step back” from their roles.
Queen Elizabeth II reportedly held crisis calls on Thursday involving Harry, his brother Prince William and their father Prince Charles, the heir to the throne.
William, Harry and their wives have been viewed as the modern face of the royal family, hailed for bringing fresh energy into the institution.
But Harry and Meghan last year admitted to struggling with the spotlight following their wedding at Windsor Castle in May 2018 and Archie’s birth a year later.
The couple have lashed out at negative news coverage — Harry calling some of it racist — and taken several papers to court.
The prince also confirmed he was growing apart from his brother, who is second in line to the throne.
The couple said they wanted to forge “a progressive new role,” split their time between Britain and North America and become financially independent.
A palace source on Thursday said the queen had instructed aides to work “at pace” with Meghan and Harry and the government “to find workable solutions.”
Key questions include whether they will keep their royal titles and how much of their funding — mostly from Prince Charles — they will maintain.
The couple’s decision follows a turbulent year for the wider royal family.
Prince Andrew announced he was retiring from public duties after a disastrous TV interview about his friendship with the late US sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
 

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Deadlock over Nile dam as Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan look to Washington for talks

LONDON: Prince Harry’s wife Meghan has returned to Canada following the couple’s bombshell announcement that they were quitting their frontline royal duties, their spokeswoman said on Friday.The Duke and Duchess of Sussex spent an extended Christmas break in Canada with their baby son Archie, before returning to break the news that has rocked the royal…

Deadlock over Nile dam as Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan look to Washington for talks

LONDON: Prince Harry’s wife Meghan has returned to Canada following the couple’s bombshell announcement that they were quitting their frontline royal duties, their spokeswoman said on Friday.The Duke and Duchess of Sussex spent an extended Christmas break in Canada with their baby son Archie, before returning to break the news that has rocked the royal family.“I can confirm reports that the duchess is in Canada,” the couple’s spokeswoman told AFP, without providing further details.The Daily Mail newspaper reported that the royals left eight-month-old Archie with his nanny in Canada when they flew to Britain earlier this week.It said Meghan, a former US television actress, headed back to rejoin him on Thursday and “she may stay there for the foreseeable future.”An unnamed source was quoted as saying by the domestic Press Association news agency the duchess had traveled to the UK “to attend some meetings” before returning to CanadaSenior royals were caught off guard by Wednesday’s announcement that the couple wanted to “step back” from their roles.Queen Elizabeth II reportedly held crisis calls on Thursday involving Harry, his brother Prince William and their father Prince Charles, the heir to the throne.William, Harry and their wives have been viewed as the modern face of the royal family, hailed for bringing fresh energy into the institution.But Harry and Meghan last year admitted to struggling with the spotlight following their wedding at Windsor Castle in May 2018 and Archie’s birth a year later.The couple have lashed out at negative news coverage — Harry calling some of it racist — and taken several papers to court.The prince also confirmed he was growing apart from his brother, who is second in line to the throne.The couple said they wanted to forge “a progressive new role,” split their time between Britain and North America and become financially independent.A palace source on Thursday said the queen had instructed aides to work “at pace” with Meghan and Harry and the government “to find workable solutions.”Key questions include whether they will keep their royal titles and how much of their funding — mostly from Prince Charles — they will maintain.The couple’s decision follows a turbulent year for the wider royal family.Prince Andrew announced he was retiring from public duties after a disastrous TV interview about his friendship with the late US sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. 

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Australia bushfires flare as heatwave brings renewed misery

LONDON: Britain’s royal family is hurt and disappointed by Prince Harry and his wife Meghan’s surprise announcement that they will step back from their senior roles and spend more time in North America, a royal source said.Harry and Meghan’s decision to step away from royal duties sent shock waves through the royal family as neither…

Australia bushfires flare as heatwave brings renewed misery

LONDON: Britain’s royal family is hurt and disappointed by Prince Harry and his wife Meghan’s surprise announcement that they will step back from their senior roles and spend more time in North America, a royal source said.Harry and Meghan’s decision to step away from royal duties sent shock waves through the royal family as neither Queen Elizabeth nor Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, had been consulted on the announcement, made on Instagram.Elizabeth, who has devoted her life to the public duty of monarchy since she became queen in 1952, and other senior members of the family felt hurt and disappointed by the move, a royal source said.“We have chosen to make a transition this year in starting to carve out a progressive new role within this institution,” Harry and Meghan said in their statement.“We intend to step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family, and work to become financially independent.”They said the decision was taken after months of reflection and discussion, and that they would split their time between the United Kingdom and North America to allow their family the space it needs.Cast by the couple as an exciting next step, it was not immediately clear how the couple will become what royal biographers said was akin to being a “half royal” — and who will pay for their transatlantic lifestyles.No senior royal has yet commented on the decision. British tabloids said the announcement had left senior royals such as Prince Charles and Harry’s brother, Prince William, incandescent with rage.Buckingham Palace said discussions with Harry and Meghan were at an early stage and that such complicated issues took time to work out.“MEGXIT” read The Sun’s front page headline. The Daily Mail said Queen Elizabeth was furious about the move.While the manner in which Harry and Meghan have tried to exit the spotlight cast on the world’s most famous family drew criticism, Prince Charles has long sought a slimmer and leaner royal family.The haste of their decision, though, raises questions for a family which had in Elizabeth’s words a “quite bumpy” year that included her son Prince Andrew’s decision to step down due to his relationship with disgraced US financier Jeffrey Epstein.Royal commentators drew parallels with the abdication crisis of Edward VIII who gave up the throne in 1936 to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson and lived out his life in France.Opponents of the monarchy were scathing and even supporters questioned how one could be a part-time royal.“This really is wanting to have your cake and eat it,” said Graham Smith, head of Republic which wants to abolish the monarchy.“They have said they will dip in and out of royal duties as it suits them but won’t stop taking public money until they find other sources of income.”Meghan, known for her role in the TV legal drama “Suits”, could return to acting in the United States though it is unclear how that would be viewed by the Palace.“Perhaps she’d have to be careful about what roles she’d do because she is a member of the royal family, so she couldn’t do too many racy sex scenes for instance,” said Royal biographer Penny Junor.Harry and Meghan, an American divorcee, met on a blind date but fell in love in Botswana. They married in May 2018 in a lavish ceremony in Windsor Castle that was heralded at the time as a sign of a more modern monarchy.Yet their relationship with the media turned sour as they struggled to deal with the intense scrutiny it brought.Educated at the exclusive Eton College, Harry’s teenage years were overshadowed by negative headlines. Harry and his brother disliked the press because of the way it had hounded their mother, Princess Diana, who died in a Paris car crash in 1997 while being chased by paparazzi.There have been negative stories criticizing Harry and Meghan’s use of private jets while promoting environmental causes and the 2.4 million pound ($3.08 million) taxpayer-funded renovation of their new home.The couple, whose titles are the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, began legal action against some tabloid newspapers in October over historic phone-hacking and invasion of privacy.Harry described the treatment of his wife as “bullying,” and likened it to that of his mother before her death.

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