The man who in 1972 kidnapped 7-year-old Steven Stayner, who eight years later saved another boy from the same fate, died Monday evening at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville.
Kenneth Eugene Parnell, 76, became one of the most notorious kidnappers of the century after he was turned in by the Merced boy. Stayner's amazing fortitude when he led another kidnap victim to authorities and to his own rescue after missing for eight years made him a celebrated hero.
Parnell, who died of natural causes, according to the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, was serving 25 years to life after he tried to persuade a caregiver to buy a 4-year-old boy for him for $500. He was a convicted sex offender.
Parnell had served nearly 11 years for kidnapping the Stayner boy and another 5-year-old Ukiah boy. He was released on parole in 1985.
Parnell had harbored the boy he lured off the street for eight years, posing as his father and moving from place to place. When Parnell kidnapped the second boy, Stayner, by then a 15-year-old, hitchiked with the boy to a police station in Ukiah.
He told officers he wanted to save the boy from his ordeal.
The explosive media attention on the 15-year-old boy reunited with his family, including television movies, seemed to haunt the boy and shatter the family.
After getting married in 1989, Stayner was killed in a motorcycle crash. He was 19.
In 1999, his older brother, Cary, killed three Yosemite National Park visitors, a mother, her daughter and a foreign student. Carole Sund, 42, her daughter, Juli, 15, and their Argentine friend, Silvina Pelosso, 16, were killed while they were staying at the motel where Cary Stayner worked as a handyman.
He also killed Joie Armstrong, 26, a park nature guide, that year.
The parents of the Stayners, who testified at Cary's murder trials, said they had neglected their oldest son for years because they were obsessed with finding Steven.