There are stories of resilience and strength that inspire us all. The tale of Steven Stayner is one such extraordinary journey that captivates the imagination and touches the heart. From the depths of captivity to the heights of courage, Stayner’s story is a testament to the indomitable human spirit. It’s also a true crime story for the ages.
Born on April 18, 1965, in Merced, California, Stayner’s life took an unexpected turn when he was just seven. He was abducted by a man named Kenneth Parnell and held captive for a whopping seven years. It’s safe to say that his resilience and drive to escape is worth taking a closer look at.
Steven Stayner’s Early Life
Steven Stayner was raised in a loving and close-knit family in Merced, California. As reports have it, he had a happy childhood, filled with laughter and love. His parents, Kay and Delbert Stayner provided a nurturing environment for their kids. Even more, they didn’t try to stifle their healthy inclinations.
In Steven Stayner’s case, he displayed a natural curiosity and zest for life. He loved spending time outdoors, exploring the world around him, and engaging in various activities with his siblings. As he grew older, he began to develop a knack for fixing things and would often tinker with broken toys. His parents encouraged his curiosity and provided him with the tools and resources to nurture his skills.
Details Of His Kidnapping
On December 4, 1972, Steven Stayner’s life changed forever. On his way home from school, he was approached by a disturbed man named Kenneth Parnell who lured him into his car. Little did Steven know that he was being taken against his will to live in captivity for the next seven years.
During his captivity, Stayner was subjected to unimaginable horrors in a remote cabin in Catheys Valley, California. On his first night in the cabin, he was molested, then 13 days down the line, Parnell forced himself on the youngster. He was equally forced to change his identity, going by the name Dennis Parnell, and was isolated from the outside world. His captor manipulated him into believing that his family no longer wanted him, leaving him feeling abandoned.
Parnell pretended to be Stayner’s father and moved regularly between Santa Rosa and Comptche. He also started him on the path of drinking quite young. In a sense, he was out to rob him of his innocence in more ways than one.
Steven Stayner’s Escape And Return To His Family
Parnell began looking for a younger child to kidnap as Steven Stayner approached puberty. In fact, he attempted to use him in his kidnapping schemes, but all attempts failed. As a result, Parnell concluded that Stayner lacked the means to be an accomplice.
However, as Stayner later admitted, he would purposely ruin his kidnapping ploys. Despite this, Parnell managed to kidnap five-year-old Timmy White in Ukiah on February 14, 1980. But filled with empathy for the young boy, Stayner opted to return the boy to his parents. In his own words, “I couldn’t see Timmy suffer, it was my do-or-die chance.”
So, the pair hitchhiked to Ukiah on March 1, 1980, while Parnell was at his night security duty. They headed to a police station after they couldn’t find White’s house. By the morning of March 2, 1980, Parnell was apprehended on suspicion of kidnapping both boys. Even better, that same day, the boys were reunited with their families.
When the authorities investigated his background, they discovered a prior sodomy conviction from 1951. In two trials in 1981, Parnell was prosecuted and convicted of kidnapping White and Stayner. He was condemned to seven years in prison but was released after five years. Parnell was not charged with the multiple sexual assaults on Stayner and other youngsters because the majority of them occurred outside the jurisdiction of the Merced County prosecutor or had passed the statute of limitations by that time.
His Life After The Whole Ordeal
It’s no surprise that Steven Stayner had problems adjusting to a more structured life after his return home. He told reporters, “I returned almost a grown man, but my parents saw me as their 7-year-old. After they stopped repeating the basics, things improved. Everything changed. I sometimes blame myself. I sometimes wonder if I should have gone home. Would I have done better without?”
While he went through a brief period of counseling, he soon discontinued it and stopped discussing Parnell’s sexual abuse. Stayner continued drinking heavily and was kicked out of the family home. Even more, his relationship with his father became rigid and tense.
However, things did get better for him and he married 17-year-old Jody Edmondson in 1985. The couple had two daughters whom he practically grilled about personal safety. Furthermore, he collaborated with child abduction groups and opened up about his captivity in interviews. Stayner’s untimely death came on September 16, 1989, due to a hit-and-run accident on his motorcycle on his way home from work. Over 500 people attended his funeral and 14-year-old Timmy White was a pallbearer.