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Crime News Serial Killers

What Does Steven Stayner's Daughter Ashley Stayner Think of True Crime?

Ashley Stayner is a fan of the genre despite being intimately connected to two major true crime tales: the kidnapping of her father Steven and the conviction of her uncle Cary Stayner of multiple murders.

By Gina Tron
Steven Stayner seen in Hulu's "Captive Audience"

Steven Stayner’s daughter is definitely a fan of true crime despite being connected deeply to two American true crime tragedies.

“Captive Audience: A Real American Horror Story,” a Hulu docuseries, shows the unreal tale of two Stayner brothers: first, it looks back at the 1972 kidnapping of Steven Stayner who was abducted at the age of 7 while walking home from his elementary school in Merced, California. Stayner's kidnapper, convicted child molester Kenneth Parnell, who at the time worked at a resort in Yosemite National Park, then posed as Steven’s legal guardian while moving around the state for eight years with the boy.  

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. His death left behind two young children, Ashley, 3, and Steven Jr., 2. Both children participated in the new docuseries.

While Ashley and Steven Jr. were still in school, they learned that their uncle – their dad's older brother – had grown up to become a predator. Cary Stayner, who was also depicted in “I Know My Name is Steven,” murdered three tourists and a naturalist in Yosemite National Park in 1999: Carole Sund, 42; Juli Sund, 15; Silvina Pelosso, 16; and Joie Ruth Armstrong, 26. Their deaths were violent, and one was even decapitated. In the docuseries, a reporter asserts that after Cary Stayner's arrest, he told him he wanted a television movie made about his crimes.

He was convicted of three counts of first-degree murder and one count of kidnapping in 2002. He is currently on death row at San Quentin Penitentiary in California.

Both of Steven’s kids recalled how Cary’s crimes affected them; even though they had no relationship with their uncle at that point, they felt the weight of his crimes due to the connection to the Stayner family.

That being said, Ashley is still very much a fan of true crime.

“Oh I love it,” she told the filmmakers of “Captive Audience.” 

“I love true crime, it intrigues me, what makes a person actually want to harm somebody that way,” she said. “No matter how gruesome or horrible it is, we want to know. The thought of not knowing is worse than knowing.”