CAPTIVE AUDIENCE Is Cary Stayner still on death row?

Cary Stayner mug shot photos

The Hulu documentary Captive Audience tells the remarkable and tragic story of the Stayner family from Merced, California. The Stayners first made national headlines after their youngest son, Steven Stayner, was abducted in 1972 at the age of 7.

The media eventually lost interest in the missing child story, but the family was thrust back into the national spotlight when Steven returned seven years later with another missing boy, 5-year-old Timmy White.

The story received extensive media coverage and was eventually adapted into a network miniseries titled I Know My First Name Is Steven. The miniseries was watched by 40 million viewers and was nominated for four Emmy Awards.

Unfortunately for Steven, he died in a motorcycle accident on September 16, 1989, just one day before the Emmy Awards ceremony.

Cary Stayner

The kidnapping and tragic death of Steven Stayner wasn’t the last time the family would make national headlines. In 1999, Steven’s older brother, Cary Stayner, was arrested for murdering 26-year-old Joie Ruth Armstrong in Yosemite, California.

Cary Stayner would later confess to murdering Joie in addition to 42-year-old Carole Sund; her daughter, 15-year-old Juli Sund; and Juli’s friend, 16-year-old Argentine exchange student Silvina Pelosso. From Wikipedia:

Stayner was tried in federal court for Armstrong’s murder since it occurred on federal land. To avoid a possible death sentence, he pleaded guilty to premeditated first degree murder, felony first degree murder, kidnapping resulting in death, and attempted aggravated sexual abuse resulting in death.

Cary Stayner received the death penalty during his 2002 sentencing, and he was moved to the Adjustment Center on death row at San Quentin Penitentiary in California.

Is Cary Stayner Still On Death Row?

According to California Department of Corrections prison records, 60-year-old Cary Stayner is still on death row at San Quentin. Despite his sentence, Cary Stayner is unlikely to be put to death any time soon.

Executions in California were frozen by a federal court order in 2006, and no inmates have been put to death in the state in the past 16 years. In 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom passed an executive moratorium on the death penalty.

Inmates sentenced to death in California, including Cary Stayner, will remain incarcerated. As for now, however, they no longer face lethal injection.

Here is Cary Stayner’s most recent mug shot photo, taken in 2010:

Cary Stayner recent photo death row

In addition to getting rid of the death penalty, California is also dismantling San Quentin’s death row. From The Los Angeles Times:

Three years after an executive order from Gov. Gavin Newsom slammed the brakes on executions in California, which hasn’t put anyone to death in 16 years anyway, California’s death row is about to be slowly dismantled. Its 737 residents, all still technically under sentence of death, are slowly being moved away from the condemned cells at San Quentin, a place where California has, by three successive methods — the noose, the gas and the needle — put men and women to death since 1893.

Asa Hawks is a writer and editor for Starcasm. You can contact Asa via Twitter, Facebook, or email at starcasmtips(at)

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