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What Happened To Kidnapping Survivor Steven Stayner Of 'I Know My Name Is Steven'?
Steven Stayner's kidnapping was the inspiration for the TV movie "I Know My First Name is Steven."
Steven Stayner is both a kidnapping victim-turned-national hero. He's also the brother of a serial killer.
“Captive Audience: A Real American Horror Story,” a Hulu docuseries streaming today, revisits Stayner's 1972 kidnapping at the age of 7 while he was walking home from his elementary school in Merced, California. Convicted child molester Kenneth Parnell, who at the time worked at a resort in Yosemite National Park, lured the boy into his car, then posed as Stayner's legal guardian for eight years. Parnell sexually abused Stayner repeatedly during that time. Then, in 1980, Parnell kidnapped 5-year-old Timothy White.
That was the last straw for Stayner, who didn’t want White to be subjected to the same abuse that he'd endured. So, two weeks after White’s kidnapping, Stayner fled on foot along with the young boy and then hitchhiked to safety, a journey that thrust the two kidnapping survivors into the national spotlight.
As the docuseries shows, Stayner finished high school and settled down with Jody Edmondson, whom he met while working at a butcher shop. They married and had two kids, both of whom are featured in “Captive Audience.” They described Stayner as a family man and a good dad who was devoted to his loved ones.
Stayner’s kidnapping case inspired the much-watched 1989 TV movie series "I Know My First Name is Steven." While Stayner lived long enough to see the TV movie debut — and according to "Captive Audience," he liked it — his life was cut short at the age of 24. He died that same year, in a motorcycle crash on his way home from work. A car had collided with his motorcycle in the early evening hours, the Associated Press reported at the time.
The film continues to show the collateral damage of Stayner's kidnapping even after his death, as his older brother grow up to become a predator. Cary Stayner murdered three tourists and a naturalist in Yosemite National Park in 1999. He is currently on death row at San Quentin Penitentiary in California.
“This is the story of how a story gets told, and how the media’s magnifying glass impacts the characters caught in the narrative,” Hulu states in a synopsis for "Captive Audience: A Real American Horror Story"