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.