A search group experienced with investigations of several other high-profile missing persons cases has joined the search for a missing California family of four who have not been seen or heard from in nearly a month.
Texas Equusearch plans to send four members of its team to San Diego, Calif., tonight and comb the area where the McStay family was last seen Feb. 4.
Joseph McStay, 40, and his wife, Summer, 43, went missing along with their two children, Gianna, 4, and Joseph, 3.
The McStays' disappearance from their serene San Diego-area community of Bonsall has since prompted an investigation by police who still have no idea what happened.
Tim Miller, the founder and director of Equusearch, said detectives handling the case in California told the group they could use "as much help as they can get" in locating the missing family.
Miller said his crew will use drone airplanes that can spot footprints and clothing from above, as well as manpower to comb the nearly 40 miles of isolated roadway between the McStays' home and the location where their car was found.
Lt. Dennis Brugos of the San Diego Sheriff's Office said authorities located the McStay family car, a white 1996 Isuzu Trooper, with the kids' car seats still intact, two blocks from the U.S.-Mexican border and 80 miles from the family's home, prompting questions about any possible ties the family may have had to Mexico.
Equusearch's Miller said, "We don't have a crime scene, there doesn't look to be a struggle and there's no indication they left on their own.
"I'm not going to sugercoat this one bit, I don't think it looks good," said Miller, who has worked on the investigations into missing college student Natalee Holloway and slain toddler Caylee Anthony.
A San Diego Sheriff's Office spokeswoman said the U.S. Border Patrol and Interpol, the International Criminal Police Organization, are aiding the investigation, which includes homicide detectives.
"It did not appear that this family was planning on going on a vacation, and the dogs were not being cared for," Lt. Brugos said.
The family was last heard from Feb. 4, according to the husband's younger brother, Michael McStay, who first reported the family missing Feb. 15, when no one picked up the family's phone.
"We've been strategizing to figure out where they might be," Brugos said. "We're working with border control to find out whether there is any activity on their passports, and whether they had any connection to narcotics or gangs, but it doesn't seem as though they do.
"It's an absolute mystery," he said.
Joseph McStay owns Earth Inspired Products, a company that designs interior decorative fountains, according to its Web site.
His brother said the fountain business shipped worldwide regularly, but he was unsure whether the two young children even had passports.
Their father, Patrick McStay, said he believes his son had done business in Tijuana, possibly as recently as December.
"I know he does business periodically," Patrick McStay. "Some of the smaller fountains he offers are manufactured in Mexico, so he calls down there and has them sent to him."
McStay said he knew a lot about his son's business because he was the initial investor in the company. He also said he knew his son had been to Mexico, or at least to the nearby border towns, late last year to pick up granite countertops for his home kitchen, which he was renovating.
"I don't want to say the words," McStay said when asked what he thought might have happened to his son, daughter-in-law and grandsons.
"This is one of the smartest young men you'll ever meet, he doesn't have a mean bone in his body," he said.
Michael McStay said of his brother, "He is not on a vacation. He wouldn't leave the dogs uncared for, and he's worked very hard to build his company up.
"He would not leave his business and not return e-mails or phone calls. It's an Internet-driven business," he said.
A voice mail box at the company's San Clemente, Calif., headquarters was full.
The outgoing message on the McStay's home answering machine is a chipper one, encouraging callers to "have a nice day."
"I just want my brother and my nephews and my sister-in-law back," Michael McStay said. "Those boys are adorable. We just want them all back."
McStay said he and his older brother, who is called Joey by those close to him, were best friends growing up in Texas.
"My brother is awesome," he said. "He is such a compassionate, caring person and so giving. He's likable and honest. That's why so many people are rattled by this."
Asked whether he could think of anyone who may have wanted to hurt his brother, McStay said he couldn't think of anyone who didn't like his brother.
Speaking on behalf of his parents, who he said are both "a wreck," McStay said that while he's praying for the family's safe return, he's not naive.
"With what's going on in today's economy and how close his car was found to the border, the first thing I'm thinking is that it has something to do with money," McStay said.
"People do stupid stuff for money, but I'm praying for the best."