Review of Two Shallow Graves rating *****
Two Shallow Graves is a seven-part documentary series that tells the story of the trial of Chase Merritt, who was on trial for the murder of all four members of the McStay family. What makes the docuseries so compelling is that the filmmakers were able to get interviews with lawyers, prosecutors, and individuals from all sides of the trial. The result is a well-balanced look at a murder trial.
The question that lingers in every episode is whether or not Chase is guilty or whether one of many other suspects is responsible for the deaths.
There is no direct evidence against Chase. It’s all circumstantial. The filmmakers don’t take sides or offer opinions–they present every fact for and against each suspect and let the viewer draw their own conclusion. Along the way, the viewer gets to hear directly from the people involved.
What appears suspicious when presented by investigators or the prosecution becomes less so when hearing the explanation from the defense. For example, the prosecution put on a witness from Quickbooks who testified that before the murders, Chase had called Quickbooks, posing as Joeseph McStay, one of the victims, and requested that Quickbooks delete the entire online account. The witness testified that he had only received a request like that one or two other times in all of his years working at Quickbooks. The explanation by Chase seemed plausible. Joseph McStay had trouble with a web designer who also had access to the Quickbooks accounts. The web designer, Dan Kavanaugh, was threatening to delete Joeseph’s website if he didn’t pay him what he felt Joeseph owed him. Joeseph asked Chase to call and have the account deleted to prevent Dan Kavavanugh from accessing the sales information.
There’s no question that Dan Kavanaugh was blackmailing Joeseph McStay. Joeseph designed fountains for businesses and individuals. Most of that work came from his website and Google searches. The loss of the website meant the loss of his business. Dan Cavanaugh believed he was entitled to 50% of Joeseph’s sales. He also considered himself a part-owner. Chase was the person who built and installed the fountains. Preventing Dan Kavanaugh from accessing Quickbooks was the first step in getting rid of Dan Kavanaugh. More telling is that all of the data deleted from the online account still remained on the desktop computer.
More red flags were going up around Dan Kavanaugh than Chase. Dan Kavanaugh sold the business four days after the family went missing for $20,000. It wasn’t his business to sell, and no one knew what had happened to the McStay’s at that point. An ex-friend of Dan Cavanaugh told the police that he had confessed to the killings. Police cleared him as a suspect because he was supposedly in Hawaii when the murders occurred.
The work done by Joeseph’s McStay’s father, Patrick, and a family friend, Gina Watson, provided much of the details about the various suspects. They did better work than the investigators.