Cary Stayner

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Cary A. Stayner
Stayner - mugshot.jpg
Born (1961-08-13) August 13, 1961 (age 53)
Merced, California
Other names The Yosemite Killer
The Yosemite Park Killer
Criminal penalty
Conviction(s) Murder
Victims 4
Span of killings
February 1999–July 1999
Country United States
State(s) California
Date apprehended

Cary Anthony Stayner (August 13, 1961) is an American serial killer convicted of killing four women in 1999 in Mariposa County near Yosemite, California.

Early life[edit]

Stayner was born and raised in Merced, California. His younger brother, Steven, was kidnapped by child molester Kenneth Parnell in 1972, when Cary was 11, and held captive for more than seven years before escaping and being reunited with his family. Cary Stayner would later say that he felt neglected while his parents grieved over the loss of Steven.[1]

When Steven escaped from Parnell and returned home in 1980, he received massive media attention; a true crime book and TV movie, both titled I Know My First Name is Steven, were made about the ordeal. Steven died in a motorcycle accident in 1989. The following year, Stayner's uncle Jesse, with whom he was living at the time, was murdered. Stayner would also later claim that his uncle molested him when he was 11.[2]

Stayner attempted suicide in 1991[3] and was arrested in 1997 for possession of marijuana[1] and methamphetamine,[3] although the charges were eventually dropped.[1]


In 1997, Stayner was hired as a handyman at the Cedar Lodge motel in El Portal, just outside the Highway 140 Arch Rock entrance to Yosemite National Park.[1] Between February and July 1999, he murdered two women and two teenagers: Carole Sund; her daughter, 15-year-old Juli Sund; their travel companion, 16-year-old Argentine exchange student Silvina Pelosso; and Yosemite National Institute employee Joie Armstrong.[2]

The first two victims, Carole Sund and Silvina Pelosso, were found in the trunk of the charred remains of Carole's Pontiac rental car.[2] The bodies were burned beyond recognition and were identified using dental records. A note was sent to police with a hand-drawn map indicating the location of the third victim, Juli Sund.[2] The top of the note read, "We had fun with this one." Investigators went to the location depicted on the map and found the remains of Juli, whose throat had been cut.

Detectives began interviewing employees of the Cedar Lodge motel where the first three victims had been staying just before their deaths. One of those employees was Cary Stayner, but he was not considered a suspect at that point because he had no criminal history and remained calm during the police interview. When the decapitated body of the fourth victim Joie Armstrong was found, eyewitnesses said they saw a blue 1979 International Scout parked outside the cabin where Armstrong was staying. Detectives traced this vehicle to its owner, who turned out to be Stayner.[2] This caused Stayner to become the prime suspect in the case. FBI agents John Boles and Jeff Rinek found Stayner staying at Laguna del Sol nudist resort in Wilton, where he was arrested. His vehicle yielded evidence linking him to Joie Armstrong. During his interrogation, Stayner confessed to the four murders as well as to sending the map for finding Juli Sund's body.[4]

Stayner claimed after his arrest that he had fantasized about murdering women since he was seven years old, long before the abduction of his brother.[5]


Stayner pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. His lawyers claimed that the Stayner family had a history of sexual abuse and mental illness, manifesting itself not only in the murders, but also his obsessive-compulsive disorder, and request to be provided with child abuse images in return for his confession.[5] Dr. Jose Arturo Silva, a witness for Stayner's defense, testified that he had "a stew of disorders such as pedophilia, voyeurism, social dysfunction, violent fantasies, mild autism, and even a family tree laden with sexual abuse and mental illness.".[5] Stayner was nevertheless found sane and convicted of four counts of first degree murder by a jury in 2001. In 2002, during the penalty phase of his trial, he was sentenced to death. Stayner was housed in the Adjustment Center on death row at San Quentin Penitentiary in California.

In the media[edit]

  • The investigation and arrest of Cary Stayner was featured in an episode of FBI: Criminal Pursuit, titled "Trail of Terror",[6] airing on the Investigation Discovery channel.
  • Stayner's case was also featured in an episode of American Justice.[7]
  • Smith, Carlton (1999), Murder at Yosemite, St. Martin's True Crime Library, St. Martins Press, ISBN 978-0312974572 
  • McDougal, Dennis (2000), The Yosemite Murders, Ballantine Books, ISBN 978-0345438348 
  • In 2007, his case was also shown on the BIO cable channel. It was also entitled "The Yosemite Killer."
  • In 2013, the whole story of how Stayner went from student to killer was told in an episode of the UK TV series "Born to Kill?" titled, "Yosemite Park Slayer."


  1. ^ a b c d Sward, Susan; Finz, Stacy; May, Meredith; Minton, Torri (30 July 1999). "Overshadowed All His Life". SFGate. San Francisco Chronicle. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Finz, Stacy (15 December 2002). "The Case of a Lifetime". SFGate. San Francisco Chronicle. 
  3. ^ a b,%20Cary%20-%202005.pdf
  4. ^ "CNN - Yosemite suspect confesses to 4 killings - July 27, 1999". 1999-07-27. Retrieved 2011-04-09. 
  5. ^ a b c Geringer, Joseph (1999-02-12). "Cary Stayner and the Yosemite Murders". truTV Crime Library. Retrieved 2011-04-09. 
  6. ^ Director: David Haycox (2011). "Trail of Terror". FBI: Criminal Pursuit. Season 1. 
  7. ^ "The Yosemite Killer". American Justice. 2002. 

External links[edit]