Who is Cary Stayner?

American serial killer Cary Anthony Stayner was born in Merced, California USA, on 13 August 1961, making Leo his zodiac sign. His brother Steven Gregory Stayner was kidnapped at the age of seven by child molester Kenneth Parnell; Steven was 14 when he and another victim Timothy White managed to escape.

The kidnapping had a strong effect on Cary, who grew up to become a serial killer; he committed four murders from February through July 1999, was sentenced to death, but Cary hasn’t been executed to this day, and is today in San Quentin State Prison on death row.

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Education and early life

Cary was raised alongside Steven and their three sisters in Merced, by their father Delbert Stayner and mother Kay; the professions of Cary’s parents remain undisclosed.

He revealed that he felt ignored when Steven was kidnapped, as their parents were focused solely on his disappearance. After Steven returned home, he was all over the news, and the mini-series about the kidnapping was also released; Cary again felt left out. Steven was killed in a traffic accident in 1989; he was married and had two children.

Cary was three when he was diagnosed with trichotillomania, also known as compulsive hair pulling, and had to take medication; he still often pulled his hair which left him with several bald spots, which was why Cary was bullied at school and nearly always wore a cap. Following his later arrest, Cary told the police that he was seven when he started fantasizing about kidnapping and killing women, while he started fantasizing about gang raping them a couple of years later. Some psychologists believe that it was his brother Steven’s kidnapping that led to his sexual deviancy, but Cary’s stated that these thoughts began occurring before Steven was kidnapped.

He once exposed himself to his sister’s friend who was sleeping at their house.

Cary was named ‘most creative’ at Merced High School when he was 18, mostly because of his cartoon contributions; he matriculated in 1979 and then began working at a glass company as a window installer. Cary later revealed that he often fantasized about driving a truck into the company, setting it on fire and killing everyone there.

He tried to commit suicide by inhaling carbon monoxide in 1991, and was taken to a mental hospital four years later because of a mental breakdown. Cary was arrested for being in possession of methamphetamines and marijuana in 1997, but the charges were later dropped.


He began working at the Cedar Lodge motel as a handyman in 1997, and found all his four victims there.

The police found the remains of his first two victims in the trunk of a burned Pontiac rental car on 18 March 1999; these were 16 years old exchange student Silvina Pelosso and 42 years old Carole Evon Sund. The bodies were only identified thanks to dental records, as they were entirely burned. The police were able to discover that Carole wasn’t raped but that Silvina was, and that Cary killed Carole by strangling her with a rope and shooting her, while Silvina was only shot.

Six days after the bodies were discovered, Cary sent a map to the police, which showed the location of the body of his third victim: this was Carole’s 15 years old daughter Juliana ‘Juli’ Sund who was raped, while her throat was then cut.

The police began interviewing people employed at the Cedar Lodge motel, and Cary wasn’t a suspect because he was calm while speaking to the police, and also had no criminal record.

His fourth victim was Joie Ruth Armstrong, a 26 years old naturalist who was employed at Yosemite Institute; he decapitated her on 22 July 1999. Seven witnesses claimed to had seen Cary’s car parked outside of Joie’s cabin a day before her murder, and he thus became the prime suspect; he was arrested at the nudist resort Laguna del Sol and straight away told the police that he’d committed all four murders.

Other murders

There are a couple of other murders which the police believe Cary had committed: 28 years old Patricia Marie ‘Patty’ Hicks Dahlstrom was a member of a cult, and her severed arm was found on 28 June 1983 at Yosemite National Park, while her skull was also found in 1988.

Cary’s uncle Jesse Jerrold ‘Jerry’ Stayner was found shot by his own shotgun at his home on 26 December 1990; his killer hasn’t been caught to this day, and most people believe that Cary killed him because his uncle had sexually abused him after Steven was kidnapped.

Severed human hands were discovered at the New Melones Lake reservoir in October 1994, while a torso with no hands and head was found on 13 December; the police identified the victim as the 24 years old Sharalyn Mavonne Murphy.

Also in December 1994, the police found the nearly decomposed body of 34 years old Denise Smith in a burn barrel.

Michael Larry ‘Mike’ Madden was 20 years old when he went missing on 10 August 1996, and it’s believed that Cary killed him, too.


Cary was tried in federal court because he had killed Joie Ruth Armstrong on federal land; he pleaded guilty to four counts to avoid the death sentence, and at one point during the trial began crying, claiming that he was sorry for what he had done, and that there was no specific reason behind it.

Cary was sentenced to life behind bars.

His lawyer stated that there was a history of mental illnesses in Cary’s family, and asked that he received child pornography for his confession; Dr. Jose Arturo Silva confirmed that Cary was suffering from OCD, paraphilia and autism. He was still convicted of kidnapping and three murders on 27 August 2002 in state court, and was sentenced to death.

No executions have been carried out in California in the past 17 years, and Cary’s still today on death row.


Cary’s age is 61. He has brown hair and eyes, is 6ft (1.83m) tall and weighs around 175lbs (80kgs).

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