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Steven Stayner: From Zero To Hero

Steven Stayner was kidnapped at age 7 and held for seven years as a sex slave. His kidnapper informed him he was getting too old and took another small boy, Timmy White, who was five years old. Steven couldn’t stand the terror that Timmy was experiencing and chose to flee with Timmy. They had to hitchhike 40 miles to get to safety. Steven was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1989 as a result of a hit-and-run driver.

Cary Stayner, his biological brother, was involved in a number of high-profile murders near Yosemite National Park.
Stayner grew up in the city of Merced, California. Steven, his younger brother, was abducted in 1972 by child molester Kenneth Parnell and held captive for over seven years until escaping and reuniting with his family. After his ordeal, Stayner would later declare that he felt ignored by his parents.

Stayner Escape

Pic: Good HouseKeeping

Steven garnered widespread media attention when he escaped from Parnell and returned home in 1980; a true crime book and a television movie, both titled I Know My First Name is Steven, were made about the event. In 1989, Steven was killed in a motorcycle accident. Stayner’s uncle Jesse, with whom he was living at the time, was murdered the next year. Stayner would subsequently say that when he was 11 years old, his uncle assaulted him.


Stayner attempted suicide in 1991 and was arrested for marijuana and methamphetamine possession in 1997, but the charges were later dropped.

Cary Stayner was hired as a handyman at the Cedar Lodge motel in El Portal in 1997, right outside the Yosemite National Park’s Arch Rock entrance on Highway 140. Carole Sund, her 15-year-old daughter Juli Sund, their vacation companion, Argentine exchange student Silvina Peloso, 16, and Yosemite National Institute employee Joie Armstrong were all murdered between February and July 1999.

Carole Sund and Silvina Peloso, the first two victims, were discovered in the trunk of Carole’s burnt Pontiac rental car.

The remains were charred beyond recognition, and dental records were used to identify them. A note with a hand-drawn map revealing the whereabouts of the third victim, Juli Sund, was sent to the police. “We had fun with this one,” the remark stated at the top. Investigators traveled to the place marked on the map and discovered Juli’s body, which had been stabbed in the throat……Carole Sund, 42.

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