Steven Stayner’s parents were left with many questions when their 7-year-old son vanished into thin air in 1972. While they never gave up hope, the ordeal took a toll on the whole family. But in 1980, the Stayners’ prayers were answered when Steven returned home after a seven-year disappearance. Hulu’s ‘Captive Audience’ delves into a story that is fascinating and horrifying in equal parts. Steven’s father, Delbert Stayner, struggled in the aftermath of his son’s vanishing like everyone else in the family. If you’re wondering what happened to him since then, here’s what we know.
Who Was Delbert Stayner?
Del was born in New Mexico in May 1933 and moved to Merced County, California, in 1951. Then, Del served in the US Army for four years until 1957 as a Staff Sergeant. He married Kay about three years later, and the couple went on to have three daughters and two sons. But tragedy struck in December 1972 when Steven disappeared while returning from school.
In the years after Steven vanished, Del spent considerable time looking for anything that would lead him to his son. He later said, “I never stopped looking, every time I saw a crowd on TV or a picture of a lot of people in a magazine. I always looked very closely in hopes of spotting Steven.” On the show, Kay mentioned that Del would often drive around looking for freshly dug ground because he thought Steven was dead.
Later, the family also mentioned that the couple would go after any new tip that came by, with their children in tow. However, none of them panned out. Fortunately, Steven’s miraculous return in 1980 led to a happy reunion. However, that happiness was short-lived because he had difficulty adjusting back to life with his family. Steven’s sister, Cory, later said that he never went to therapy or counseling because their father didn’t think he needed it. At one point, Steven mentioned in an interview, “I’ve been talking to reporters for nine years. It’s a good substitute.”
The Stayners were in the news yet again after Cary, Steven’s older brother, confessed to murdering four women, including two teenagers. During the penalty phase, Del admitted to having neglected his children after Steven went missing and said regarding Cary, “I didn’t socialize with him. I yelled at him a lot.” According to another report, Del was ordered to undergo therapy because he molested his daughters.
How Did Delbert Stayner Die?
In the time after Steven’s disappearance, Del dealt with depression and suicidal thoughts. Like Kay, he urged the jury at Cary’s trial not to sentence him to death. However, the jury decided otherwise. After serving in the Army, Del worked at several sawmills and then moved to be employed in the canning industry. He retired in 1995 from working at a canning factory in Atwater, California. Del died at his home in Winton, California, on April 9, 2013. He was 79 years old, and from what we can tell, the cause of death has not been made public.
Read More: Where is Kay Stayner Now?