In July 1999, Cary Stayner was convicted of the murders of four women that took place between February and July 1999. Today, he remains on death row at San Quentin Penitentiary in California.
Interestingly enough, it was Cary’s brother, Steve, who became a household name years before these notorious acts took place. Steven Stayner was kidnapped at age 7, and was hailed a national hero after he helped another child escape from abuse.
The story of Steven’s kidnapping goes like this: the young boy was walking home from school one day when he was approached by a man named Edward Ervin Murphy, who said he’d give him a ride home.
Steven hopped in the car, only to be brought to Kenneth Parnell, a known pedophile at the time. Parnell took Steven to a cabin in Catheys Valley, where, according to Good Housekeeping, “he was brainwashed to believe his parents no longer wanted him.”
Steven remained in the hands of Parnell for seven years. It wasn’t long before Parnell kidnapped another child, Timothy White. One day, the police saw the two walking, and that’s when they were taken into custody, questioned, and ultimately, revealed their true identities.
Cary struggled with Steven’s disappearance, and little did anyone around him know, he would turn into a serial killer by age 37.
In an interview with a filmmaker, Cary once said, “We never really got along that well after he came back … All of a sudden Steve was getting all these gifts, getting all this clothing, getting all this attention. I guess I was jealous. I’m sure I was… I was the oldest and all that. Then all of a sudden it’s gone. I got put on the back burner, you might say.”
Cary admitted to his horrific crimes while being interrogated by FBI Special Agent Jeffrey Rinek. In 2018, Rinek opened up to A&E about the interrogation, detailed in his book, “In the Name of the Children: An FBI Agent’s Relentless Pursuit of the Nation’s Worst Predators.”
In the book, Rinek writes what Stayner admitted to him during the interrogation, one of those statements being that he first started imagining scenarios of harming women and girls when he was just six or seven years old. Rinek writes, “The thoughts and fantasies that consumed him preceded his brother Steven’s kidnapping, when Stayner was eleven, and his own sexual victimization by his uncle, which happened about six months thereafter. Those experiences certainly were damaging and poured fuel on a fire that had already begun to smolder as Stayner grew up in an environment rife with dysfunction and twisted sexuality.”
A psychiatrist who later worked for the defense in Stayner’s trial deduced that mental illness and sexual abuse went back five generations in the Stayner family. “According to the psychiatrist’s report, Stayner’s father, Delbert Stayner, was ordered into therapy for molesting his own daughters. In addition to her father’s unwanted advances, one of Stayner’s sisters said that Cary started peeping on her and inappropriately touching her when she was ten.”
Learn more about Stayner and his family by tuning into 20/20 tonight on ABC.