20/20 “Evil in Eden” The kidnapping and escape of Steven Stayner

On December 4, 1972, 7-year-old Steven Stayner was walking home from school in Merced, California when he was abducted by two men who worked at Yosemite Lodge. After over seven years of abuse Stayner was able to escape and also rescue a new victim: 5-year-old Timothy White. In 1999, Steven’s older brother Cary became a serial killer and who murdered four women while working at the Cedar Lodge motel in El Portal, California, near Yosemite Park.

How did they abduct Steven Stayner?

Young Steven was lured by Ervin Edward Murphy passing out religious tracks and asking Steven if his mother could donate to a church, an innocent-seeming conversation. While Ervin and Steven were talking, convicted child r@pist Kenneth Parnell pulled up in a white car and Murphy offered to take Steven home so he could get the donation from his mother.

Instead of driving the by home, the two men drove him to Kenneth Parnell’s cabin, which happened to be close to Steven’s grandmother’s house, but he had no idea. On the way, Kenneth stopped at a pay phone. When he came back to the car he told Steven he had called him parents, and they informed Kenneth that they no longer wanted Steven, so he was Kenneth’s son now. He drugged him with cough syrup to keep him docile and renamed him Dennis Gregory Parnell.

Kenneth Parnell traveled with Steven, and even enrolled him in school. The school did not pull Steven’s records, or even know that he was going by a fake name.

Steven lived with Kenneth and was sexual assaulted by him for years. Kenneth started losing interest in Steven when he started going through puberty, and then tried to persuade Steven to help him lure in more victims. Steven was unsuccessful in helping because he sabotaged Kenneth’s plans.

How did Steven Stayner escape?

Steven was allowed to smoke and drink and do whatever he pleased while living with Kenneth, and got used to the situation, especially since he thought he family had disowned him. He had plenty of opportunities to leave, but did not take them until Kenneth abducted a 5-year-old boy named Timothy White.

Steven was 14-years-old and was disturbed by the amount of distress Timothy was in. They left in the middle of the night while Kenneth Parnell was away at his security job.

He took Timothy White to a police station and asked him to walk in alone. Police spotted him, however, and he gave them his story. Kenneth Parnell was arrested that morning. He died in prison in 200

How did Steven Stayner die?

After Steven’s ordeal, he was lauded as a hero, but had trouble integrated back into his own family. “I returned almost a grown man and yet my parents saw me at first as their 7-year-old,” he told Newsweek. “After they stopped trying to teach me the fundamentals all over again, it got better. But why doesn’t my dad hug me anymore? . . Everything has changed. Sometimes I blame myself. I don’t know sometimes if I should have come home. Would I have been better off if I didn’t?”

Not only did Steven suffer with blending back into his family. He also faced homophobic bullying at school because he was sexually abused when he was kidnapped.

A book a television series about his abduction gave him a bit of revenue, and by 1989 he was married with two kids of his own. The 24-year-old had joined the Mormon church, and was working at a pizza shop when his life abruptly came to an end when his motorcycle was struck by a car. His funeral was attended by hundreds of people, and the boy he rescued, Timothy White, was then 14-years-old and served as one of Steven’s pallbearers.

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