Steven Stayner’s Seven Years in Captivity and His Courageous Escape

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Kenneth Eugene Parnell kidnapped Steven Stayner and kept him captive for 7 years.

Kenneth Eugene Parnell, born September 26, 1931, was an American convicted sex offender, child rapist, and kidnapper most known for abducting Steven Stayner, 7, and Timothy White, 5, in Merced, California.

Three weeks before Christmas in 1972, Steven Stayner’s life would change in a way that would never be the same again. The 7-year-old boy grew up in the quiet suburbs of Merced, California. On a typical Monday, he was walking home from school when a wanderer from Texas took him and held him for seven years.

In the 1950s, Parnell had already done time for raping a child and pretending to be a police officer. He would get a job at a resort in Yosemite National Park and try to convince Ervin Edward Murphy that he wanted to be a minister. In 1972, he got him to help him kidnap a young boy.

On December 4, they pretended to drive Stayner home to get him into Parnell’s car. Stayner was held captive and raped in a remote cabin in Catheys Valley. Instead of trying to escape, he went to local schools with a fake name because she was too scared to try escaping. When he got too old for Parnell, he was told to help take another person hostage.

The Abduction of Steven Stayner

Steven Gregory Stayner was born on April 18, 1965, in Merced, California. He had a younger brother named Cary and three sisters. Even though Delbert and Kay Stayner raised them with care in almond groves and peach orchards, they lived in the farming town of Merced.

Kenneth Eugene Parnell worked two hours away at the Yosemite Lodge. By 1972, he had already started planning to kidnap a boy and had persuaded Ervin Murphy to help him find a boy to “raise in a religious way.” On December 4, they went to Merced in Parnell’s white Buick and gave religious pamphlets to kids.

Steven was seven when he was abducted

Murphy went up to Stayner and told him he worked for the church. He then asked Stayner if his family had anything they could donate. The boy said that they did, and they agreed to go home with him. Parnell told him his parents didn’t want him anymore. Parnell stopped on Highway 140 and pretended to call them at a payphone and came back and told him they didn’t want him back.

The Merced Police Department was already told by his parents that he hadn’t come home from school. They looked for Stayner very hard, but they never found him. When Stayner was driven to Parnell’s cabin on December 17, it was the first of many times he would be sexually abused.

The Bad Things That Kenneth Parnell Did

Not only did Parnell keep getting worse with Steven Stayner, but he also told the boy that his parents could no longer afford to take care of five kids. He said that they had given him legal custody and that Stayner would now be called Dennis Gregory Parnell and be able to keep his middle name.

Catheys Valley in Mariposa County was only a few hundred miles from Merced, but investigators had no leads and didn’t know where to look. In the meantime, Parnell signed Stayner up for school at Steele Lane Elementary as if he were the boy’s father just a few weeks after he went missing.

Parnell’s cabin where he kept captives

Even though Stayner was getting more freedom to move around, he was too young and couldn’t even think about escaping. Parnell would move them to places like Santa Rosa in Sonoma County and Comptche in Mendocino County, where Stayner would be held captive and abused, and not just by Parnell.

Stayner was given a Manchester Terrier, which he named Queenie, as a gift while he was drunk and getting used to his new life. Kenneth Parnell hadn’t had a sudden change of heart, though. He would still invite a woman named Barbara Mathias to live with them, and she would freely abuse 11-year-old Stayner.

A few years later, when Stayner was getting older, Parnell began looking for someone younger to hurt. He asked Stayner to help him find one, but the boy messed up his plans. But on February 14, 1980, Parnell won because he used Stayner and his classmate Randall Sean Poorman as pawns. The girl he killed was only five years old.

After Seven Years, Steven Stayner Gets Away

Two weeks after Timothy White was taken from the streets of Ukiah in Mendocino County, the boy’s emotional cries moved Stayner so much that he decided to do something. Parnell didn’t know that Stayner would defy him because he had let him come and go freely for years, but Stayner never ran away.

Stayner and Timothy White

On March 1, 1980, the worst nightmare of the kidnapper came true. Two of Parnell’s victims left the cabin while he was on duty as a security man. After hitchhiking the whole 40 miles, Stayner found a way to get White back to Ukiah. He told the police everything, but at first he didn’t know what to say. “I know my first name is Steven,” he said.

Even though Stayner’s claims were found to be true, Parnell was never charged with sexually abusing him because of issues with jurisdiction and time limits. After being caught on March 2, he was tried and found guilty of the two kidnappings in 1981. He got seven years in prison, but he got out after five.

Steven after his escape

Stayner got back together with his family, which was a sad thing. He was hailed as a national hero by the media, but he started drinking more and more to deal with his trauma. He eventually quit school. Even though he met and married Jody Edmonson in 1985 and had two children, he wasn’t happy for long.

Steven Stayner lived in Merced and worked at a pizza place. He bought a 1989 Kawasaki EX-500 with some of the $30,000 he got for the movie rights to his story. On September 16, 1989, he was riding home when a 1976 Plymouth Volare hit him and drove away. Stayner died from head injuries.

Parnell died in prison

He would be buried in Merced District Cemetery next to his grandparents after his funeral, which was attended by 450 people and where 14-year-old Timothy White was one of the pallbearers. Cary Stayner, his older brother, was found guilty of killing four women in Yosemite in 1999, which was a scary thing.

Source: Vocal Media

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