Oxygen Insider Exclusive!

Create a free profile to get unlimited access to exclusive videos, breaking news, sweepstakes, and more!

Sign Up for Free to View
Crime News

Where Is Sex Offender Kenneth Parnell, Who Kidnapped Steven Stayner, Now? 

Kenneth Parnell kidnapped Steven Stayner and Timothy White, abductions that later inspired the 1989 TV movie "I Know My First Name is Steven."

By Gina Tron
A photo of Kenneth Parnell

Kenneth Parnell is most notoriously known for the kidnapping of Steven Stayner, but he was an active child sex predator long before that 1972 abduction.

Parnell, a former motel clerk, had already been convicted for molesting an 8-year-old boy in Bakersfield, California in 1952 when he kidnapped Stayner, SF Gate reported in 2008. However, he only served three years in prison for that offense. 

Parnell was registered as a sex offender when he lured 7-year-old Stayner’s into his car as the boy walked home from his elementary school in Merced, California. Parnell posed as Stayner's legal guardian and moved him around the state of California for the next eight years.  He sexually abused Stayner repeatedly until Stayner fled in 1980 when he was 14.

When Parnell kidnapped 5-year-old Timothy White that year, Stayner fled on foot along with the kindergartner and then hitchhiked to safety, a journey that thrust the two kidnapping survivors into the national spotlight. 

As “Captive Audience: A Real American Horror Story,” a Hulu docuseries that streams today, shows, the two boys bravely testified against Parnell at his trial. In 1981, he was convicted of kidnapping both boys and sentenced to seven years of state prison time. However, he only served five years of his sentence.

In 2003, he was once again arrested in connection with a kidnapping, when an elderly and sickly Parnell tried to get his caretaker to buy a 4-year-old boy for him in Berkeley, California, the Associated Press reported in 2004. A year later, he was sentenced to life, which was, at the time, the harshest sentence handed down under the the "three strikes" law. 

Parnell died in 2008 at the age of 76 of natural causes in the state prison hospital at Vacaville, SF Gate reported.

“He has been a danger to children his entire life,” prosecutor Tim Wellman said in 2004.