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 Serial Killers

Where Is Serial Killer Cary Stayner, Whose Brother Steven Was Kidnapped, Now?

Cary Stayner asked the FBI to have access child pornography before he would confess to the murders. 

By Gina Tron
Merced County Sheriff Sgt. Gary Carlson, left, and Cary Stayner, center, comfort Delbert Stayner, right

His brother Steven was a national hero but Cary Stayner became a vicious serial killer. 

“Captive Audience: A Real American Horror Story,” a Hulu docuseries streaming today, revisits the 1972 kidnapping of Steven Stayner who was abducted at the age of 7 while 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, then posed as Steven’s legal guardian while moving around the state for eight years with the boy.  

In 1980, Parnell kidnapped 5-year-old Timothy White and two weeks later, Steven fled on foot with the boy so he could save them both.

It was a journey that thrust the two into the national spotlight. Not only was the case, and the subsequent trial of Parnell, a consistent source of public interest, but it was also turned into a hit movie.

The much-watched 1989 TV movie series "I Know My First Name is Steven" dramatized the story, featuring actors portraying Stayner's family members, including his his older brother, Cary. 

As “Captive Audience” shows, Cary was jealous of the attention that his younger sibling received, despite what he had been through. Cary allegedly told filmmakers working on the television movie that his brother was nothing special, that he only did what anyone one do in his situation. 

Ten years after the film’s release, Cary committed a series of particularly violent murders. He killed 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. They had all been violently killed, and one was even decapitated.

In the docuseries, a reporter claims that after Cary Stayner's arrest, he told him he wanted a television movie made about his crimes.

Even more bizarrely, Cary asked the FBI to have access child pornography before he would confess to the murders, the Associated Press reported in 2002. He told the FBI that his urge to watch child porn had been "gnawing away at me all my life."

"It's sick, disgusting, perverted. I know that," Stayner told the investigators. "I can't go to prison for the rest of my life and be happy without seeing it."

But they denied his request and the case went to trial.Cary was convicted in 2002 of four counts of first-degree murder, and sentenced to die at San Quentin State Prison. However, California’s last execution was held in 2006, and in 2019 the state placed a moratorium on capital punishment.

Cary is 60 years old and still on death row.

Read more about: