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For week ended August 01, 1999 Posted 8 Aug 1999

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Overshadowed All His Life

Summarized by Eric Bunker

Overshadowed All His Life
San Francisco CA Chronicle 30Jul99 L8
By Susan Sward, Stacy Finz, Meredith May, Torri Minton: Chronicle Staff Writers

This last week, Cary Stayner was arrested on suspicion of killing three female Yosemite tourists and a female Yosemite naturalist.

Born in 1961, Cary grew up in the San Joaquin Valley farming community of Merced. He was the oldest of the five children of Delbert Stayner, a cannery maintenance man and his wife, Kay, a day-care worker. Kay had been brought up in a Catholic boarding school and later raised her own children as Mormons, though it appears that Cary had not been active since childhood in church activities.

He was an artistic, creative child, voted the ``most creative'' student in the graduating class at Merced High School. Many thought he would go on to be a cartoonist or graphic artist. However, far from living up to any glowing prediction, Cary Stayner bounced from one ordinary job to another, hauling furniture, installing windows, constructing shower doors and finally working as a maintenance man at a motel. But nothing spoke vividly to those around him of what was to come. No one suspected that such evil was building within him.

Cary said that he first thought of killing women when he was 7 years old as he peered at supermarket clerks through a window. He says that he held off acting out on those feelings for 30 years and felt proud for doing so. In hindsight, many can now see the twisted obsessions that were forming within.

The family became nationally known because of the kidnapping of his younger brother Steven in 1973, who despite the odds, came home in 1980 after a seven-year ordeal. Steven had a television movie made about his life and eventually died in a motorcycle accident in 1989. It appears that this event has a significant impact on Cary's life.

Cary's demeanor was such that he was well liked, trusted and respected with all that he associated with. He was, almost everyone said, the nicest guy you would want to meet. He was handsome, but never dated and appeared socially reserved and shy, but rarely visibly ruffled by anything that happened. When there were accounts of Stayner acting up as a child, it was usually something minor. The FBI didn't even suspect him when it interviewed Stayner, who had been working at the motel where the sightseers disappeared February 15 of this year.

Those who relate such positive experiences about Stayner say they cannot connect them with the man who told a television reporter this week that he strangled two women and burned their bodies, butchered two others and wanted a TV ``movie of the week'' made of his life and crimes.

By 1990, Stayner was living with his uncle, Jesse ``Jerry'' Stayner. One day his uncle was discovered dead in his home, slain by a shotgun blast. Police investigated but never found the killer. Since Stayner's arrest last weekend, they have reopened the case.

According to Cary, on the night of February 15, he said, he could no longer control his bottled-up impulses. That night, he said, he sneaked into the tourists' room at the Cedar Lodge, held them at gunpoint gagged and tied them up. Stayner said that he brought a knife and camera with him but never took pictures of the women.

Stayner said the women obeyed his every command. He said he quickly strangled Carole Sund and Pelosso, but took Julie Sund on a 30- mile drive to Lake Don Pedro and cut her throat. Stayner swears he never sexually assaulted or tortured the women. He said he wanted the killings to be as painless and humane as possible.

After the killings, Stayner said he kept close tabs on news of the FBI's investigation. `He said that he was dumbfounded that the FBI had focused on a group of Central Valley parolees. When investigators did not come back to arrest him, Stayner said he knew he could no longer curb his impulse to murder again. ``I would have kept killing until I was caught or killed,'' he told the FBI.

Cary said on July 21 he drove to Foresta Road in Yosemite National Park, a favorite spot where he said he once saw Bigfoot. He brought up Bigfoot in conversation with another woman he met there -- Joie Armstrong, a 26-year-old naturalist. The mythical beast apparently fascinated him. It was even on his mind when he caught a taxi ride home the February night he says he dumped the bodies of the Yosemite tourists.

Stayner said he chanced upon Armstrong in front of her cabin. When he realized that she was alone, he said, he could not control the urge to kill her too. Her beheaded body was found near her cabin July 22.

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information