Timothy White was buried Thursday, 30 years after his notorious Ukiah kidnapping and dramatic rescue from a child molester dominated headlines and sparked public outrage.
White, 35, a Los Angeles sheriff's deputy, died April 1 in Southern California of an apparent pulmonary embolism, his step-father, Roger Gitlin said in an e-mail to the family's friends in Ukiah.
"It is very sad," said Ukiah broker Dick Selzer, who headed a search committee after White, then 5, was abducted on Valentine's Day 1980 as he walked home from school.
White was returned to Ukiah on March 2 by another kidnap victim, Steven Stayner, who in 1972 at age 7 had been taken by the same man, Kenneth Parnell, kept as his captor's "son" and sexually abused.
Stayner, wanting to save White from the abuse he'd suffered, hitchhiked with the younger boy from the rural ranch where he was being held to Ukiah while Parnell was at work at the now-defunct Palace Hotel.
Stayner died in a motorcycle crash in 1989 at the age of 24.
Parnell served five years of a seven year sentence before being paroled to Berkeley, where he was rearrested in 2003 for trying to buy a 4-year-old boy. He died at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville in 2008 at the age of 76.
Stayner and White were not Parnell's only victims. He'd been convicted in 1951 for molesting a 9-year-old boy in Bakersfield.
Parnell kidnapped Stayner from his hometown, Merced, after offering the boy a ride. He renamed him Dennis Parnell and made him call him dad. They lived in motels and trailer parks in Santa Rosa and on the Mendocino Coast in the 1970s.
In 1980, Parnell decided to abduct another child. He enlisted the help of a seventh-grader who was a friend of Stayner, offering him liquor and marijuana. The 14-year-old boy grabbed White and threw him into Parnell's car .
The abductions were the subject of a book and TV movie titled "I Know My First Name Is Steven."
Three decades after White's abduction, memories of the crime endure in Ukiah.
Retired Ukiah Police Detective Paul McCoey recalled the all-out effort to find the boy, which included enlisting help from a psychic.
Mendocino County Sheriff's Capt. Kurt Smallcomb was in high school at the time, but he knows the story well. "It was huge," he said.
White's family moved from Ukiah not long after his rescue.
Tim White worked as a contractor in Southern California before joining the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department in 2005. He lived in Pine Mountain with his wife, Dena, and their two children, Hannah, 13, and Lukas, 11. He's also survived by his mother, Angela Gitlin, father, James White, and his sister, Nicole Nixon.
A service was held Thursday at the Placerita Baptist Church in Newhall. He was buried at Eternal Valley cemetery, also in Newhall. A memorial fund has been established for his family through the Bank of America.
Read all of the PD's fire coverage here