A look back at Steven Stayner, kidnapped child who escaped to the Ukiah police station
While walking just a few blocks from his Merced home in 1972, Steven Stayner was abducted at age 7 by a man who lured him into his car.
His parents agonized over him for years, but in 1980 they received miraculous news: Stayner was not only alive in Willits, he was also a hero who saved another boy from his fate.
“I never did lose my hope that I would find Steve,” his mother, Kay, said in a televised interview two weeks after Stayner’s return.
In the seven years after Stayner went missing on Dec. 4, 1972, he was with his kidnapper, Kenneth Parnell, a pedophile who passed himself off as Stayner’s father. They moved around in California and lived in Santa Rosa and along the Mendocino Coast.
When Stayner was 14, Parnell abducted 5-year-old Timmy White on Feb. 13, 1980 as the kindergartner was walking near a Ukiah elementary school.
Stayner, who was sexually abused by Parnell, escaped with White two weeks later. The two boys hitchhiked from the rural ranch where they were living and went to the Ukiah police station.
“I brought in Timmy because I didn’t like what was happening,” Stayner told The Press Democrat after their escape. “It happened to me and I didn’t want to see it happen to anyone else.”
Stayner’s story inspired the four-part 1989 television series “I Know My First Name is Steven.” Stayner played the part of a police officer in a nonspeaking role.
Parnell was convicted of kidnapping and served five years of a seven-year sentence. In 2004, he was convicted of conspiracy to steal a child and sentenced to 25 years in prison. He died in 2008.
Stayner reportedly had trouble adjusting to life after his seven-year abduction and reunion with his family. He later married and had two kids. Stayner died in 1989 at age 24 in a motorcycle crash.
Over a decade later, the Stayner family suffered another blow. Stayner’s brother, Cary, was revealed to be a serial killer whose victims were four women around Yosemite National Park. In 2002 Cary Stayner was convicted of first degree murder on four counts.
White, who was a pallbearer at Stayner’s funeral, died in 2010 at age 35 due to a pulmonary embolism.
See photo gallery above for photos of Steven Stayner’s life.
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