Monday’s latest episode of American Greed doesn’t feel like a usual episode, as the show takes a look at one of the most heartwrenching murder cases of the last decade.
With “A Family Vanishes,” the CNBC series feels more like any other of the countless true crime shows that now populate the airwaves. As Stacy Keach narrates the circumstances of how the McStay family seemingly disappeared from their California home in early 2010, the story is more murder mystery than financial mystery. For people who watch American Greed because of its unique focus on financial crimes, that may be a turn-off; for others who just want a good true crime story, it may not matter.
The episode doesn’t get into the financial motives until the latter half of the episode. Instead, it deviates from the show’s usual storytelling format to move chronologically, detailing everything from the McStay family’s initial vanshing to two different law enforcement groups investigating their case. It even contains footage from the 2019 trial of Charles Merritt, Joseph McStay’s one-time business partner, who was convicted of his murder.
(It’s food for thought that it was nearly a decade between the crimes and the trial, albeit three years of that was spent looking for the victims before their bodies were eventually located.)
After last week’s blistering “The Fall of an Opioid Mogul” this episode is more emotional than analytical. There’s no sneaky financial scheme, no conspiracy to uncover; this is just a murder case where the motive happened to be money. While it tugs at the heartstrings because of the loss of an entire family, including two young children, don’t expect the usual level of surprise that American Greed commonly brings. And because the conviction is so recent, the episode ends rather abruptly, too.
If you weren’t aware of the McStay case when it dominated the headlines, “A Family Vanishes” is a comprehensive look at it from beginning to end, including interviews with investigators, prosecutors, and Merritt’s defense attorneys. But rather than feeling surprised or like you’ve learned about some new aspect of crime, you’ll just be saddened more than anything else.
American Greed airs Mondays at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT on CNBC. You can watch the first ten minutes of this episode below.
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