Between February and July 1999, Cary Anthony Stayner was convicted of four murders near Yosemite National Park. Today, he is on death row at San Quentin Penitentiary in California.
This evening’s episode of 20/20 will not only delve into the life of Cary Stayner, but it will examine that of his brother, Steven, who was kidnapped in 1972.
Interested in learning more about serial killer Cary Stayner, also known as the Yosemite Killer? Read on.
1. His Brother Was Kidnapped by a Child Molestor in 1972
In 1971, Stayner’s brother was kidnapped by child molester Kenneth Parnell while walking home from school. He was just a second-grader at the time.
Steven was held captive for seven years before he escaped. He was 14-years-old at the time of his escape, and helped lead another newly kidnapped boy to freedom. During his time in captivity, Steve was told he was no longer wanted. He was also told that he had been adopted, and that his new name was Dennis Parnell. Steven was sexually abused by his captor, and beaten, as well as given drugs and liquor.
Because he was able to bring another boy to safety, Steven was hailed as a hero after his escape.
In 1989, Steven was tragically killed in a motorcycle crash.
2. He Murdered Two Women and Two Teenagers
During a five-month span in 1999, Stayner murdered two women and two teenagers: Carol Sund and her 15-year-old daughter, Julie, 16-year-old Argentine exchange student Silvina Pelosso, and 26-year-old Yosemite Institute employee Joie Ruth Armstrong. At the time, Stayner was 37, and worked as a handyman at a nearby hotel.
The bodies of Carole Sund and Silvina Pelosso were found burned in the trunk of Carole’s rental car. A note sent to the police led them to Stayner’s next victim, Julie, whose throat had been cut. Pelosso was the daughter of one of Carole’s close friends, and was spending the weekend with the Sund family at the time of her murder.
The last victim to be found was Joie Ruth Armstrong– she had been beheaded. According to The Yosemite Horror, Armstrong’s mutilated body “spread fear through Yosemite.”
After Armstrong’s body was found, police were immediately flooded with tips and calls. One park employee claimed that he had noticed a blue and white 1979 International Scout parked Armstrong’s house the night of the murder. The car was eventually found and police learned it belonged to Stayner.
3. He Confessed to the Murders After Being Found at a Nudist Colony
In July 1999, FBI investigators found Stayner by a riverbank near the car that another park employee had identified as being at Armstrong’s the night she had been murdered. Not long after, they were able to link the car to tire tracks from the scene.
When police went to arrest Stayner just a few days later, he was eating lunch at a nudist colony near Sacramento, according to The Yosemite Horror.
When Stayner was brought in for questioning, he surprisingly confessed to the murders. He also admitted to killing Carole and Julie Sund and Silvina Pelosso.
4. He Pleaded Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity
In court, according to the San Francisco Gate, Stayner pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
His defense attorneys argued in trial that Stayner suffered from mental illness, including OCD.
After he put in his plea, Francis Carrington, the father and grandfather of the Sunds, told the SF Gate, “I don’t think that anyone who can plan and cover up the crimes the way he did is insane… And then there are all the interviews he did with members of law enforcement.”
The outlet also reports Stayner as telling authorities that he “cleaned the crime scene so as not to leave incriminating evidence and that he learned how to do it by watching the Discovery Channel.”
In 2000, a mental health test conducted on Stayner deduced that he had brain abnormalities “consistent with schizophrenia, psychotic disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorders.” The prosecution, however, argued against the validity of the scans.
5. He Is Currently on Death Row
In 2002, Stayner was sentenced to death. Today, he is on death row at San Quentin Penitentiary in California. As the Modesto Bee points out, there have been no executions in the state of California since 2006.
Tonight’s ABC News’ 20/20 will feature never-before-broadcast audio from Cary’s confession, along with interviews with Trisha Houtz, a former Yosemite Cedar Lodge worker, Des Kidd, a former Yosemite medical director who discovered one of the victims, and Mike Marchese, a childhood friend of Cary, among others.
The broadcast will also feature the first prime-time interview with former FBI agent Jeff Rinek, who took Stayner’s confession.
Be sure to tune into ABC News’ 20/20, tonight on ABC from 9-11pm. EST.