ABC’s ’20/20: Yosemite Serial Killer’ is a two-hour special that delves into the harrowing story of Cary Stayner, a serial killer, rapist, and thrill seeker who reigned terror near the Yosemite National Park for almost six months in 1999. Not only does it feature archival clips and Cary’s confessions, but it also demonstrates how his younger brother’s kidnapping as a child may have played a vital role in his demeanor. Now that over two decades have passed since his crimes, though, let’s uncover everything there is to know about him, shall we?
Who is Cary Stayner?
Born and raised in the small town of Merced, California, Cary Stayner was one of five siblings who seemed to have a great childhood in the area. He was not only deemed to be a “nice guy” and someone who truly cared for his family, but Cary was also a creative being that most thought would grow up to be a cartoonist or graphic designer. However, things changed when Cary was 11-years-old and his younger brother, Steven, was abducted by a child molester named Kenneth Parnell. Apart from the grief in the ensuing years, he started to feel neglected by his parents.
Steven escaped his captor and returned home in 1980. However, with the media attention that followed, Cary’s internal struggles with impulses seemed to multiply into uncontrollable urges. He turned into a loner, exposed himself to his sister’s friends, and became a bit lost after high school. He enjoyed nudity and nature, so he found refuge in such colonies and near Yosemite. Cary allegedly attempted suicide in 1991 and was once arrested for having meth and marijuana in his possession, but the counts were later dropped. No one knew the actual extent of his fights, though.
In 1997, Cary started working as a handyman at the Cedar Lodge Motel in El Portal, near Yosemite National Park, California. And just two years later, on February 15, 1999, three tourists went missing: a 42-year-old woman named Carole Sund, her 15-year-old daughter Juli Sund, and Juli’s friend Silvina Pelosso, 16. While the officials recovered Carole and Silvina’s charred remains from the trunk of their rental car, Juli was found after a hand-drawn map was sent to the police station. Then, in July 1999, the decapitated body of naturalist Joie Armstrong was found merely half a mile away from her cabin.
When eyewitnesses reported seeing Cary Stayner’s vehicle outside Joie’s cabin, he became a crucial lead. Authorities had already interrogated him for the other three homicides, and his behavior hadn’t raised any suspicion among the officials, so they only wished to interview him again as a witness. However, when Cary was brought in for questioning by FBI agents, he confessed to the four killings, the sexual assault of every victim (except Carole), and admitted to sending the map for Juli’s remains. His car and Joie’s cottage yielded further evidence that incriminated him without a doubt.
Where is Cary Stayner Now?
As time passed, Cary Anthony Stayner alleged that he’d fantasized about women being gang-raped and murdered since he was about 7-years-old, long before his brother was ever kidnapped or considered to be in danger. He had also mentioned to one of his co-workers that he’d been diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder, but he could manage it by smoking a joint. As if all this wasn’t enough, a friend of Cary’s recalled that they had once seen him bloody his fist in anger and concede that he feared he was having a nervous mental breakdown.
Although Cary pleaded not guilty by cause of insanity, he’d told a reporter that he wanted a movie-of-the-week made on his exploits. There was one about Steven Stayner, so he desired the same fame-based treatment. His defense claimed that Cary’s mental illness, familial history, and past sexual abuse came to a head with the killings and his distasteful request for child pornography in exchange for his confession. After all, an uncle reportedly molested him while Steven was in captivity, and they passed away in 1990 (while Cary lived with him) and 1989, respectively.
A medicinal expert testified that Cary had obsessive-compulsive disorder, mild autism, and paraphilia, but he was legally sane. Therefore, on August 27, 2002, he was convicted of four counts of first-degree murder by a jury and subsequently sentenced to death. So, today, at the age of 59, Cary Stayner is incarcerated at the San Quentin State Prison. He remains on death row as of July 2021, but there have been zero executions in the state of California since a 2006 court ruling on the flaws found in the management of capital punishment. Thus, no execution date for Cary has been set.
Read More: How Did Steven Stayner Die?