Infamous kidnapper re-arrested

Published: Sunday, January 5, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 5, 2003 at 1:17 a.m.
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Kenneth Parnell is shown in a June, 1981 file photo testifying at his trial for the kidnapping of a 5-year boy. Parnell was arrested Friday night in Berkley, Calif., after allegedly trying to buy a child, said. Lt. Dennis Ahearn, a spokesman for the Berkeley police department. Parnell, whose kidnapping of Steven Stayner was turned into a television movie, was convicted in the 1972 kidnapping of Stayner, who was then 7, and the 1980 kidnapping of a 5-year-old boy. He served five years in prison in the kidnappings.

(AP Photo, File)
SAN FRANCISCO - Thirty years after the kidnapping of Steven Stayner, a case that shocked the nation and was made into a television movie, the man who snatched the 7-year-old as he walked home from school has been arrested for allegedly trying to buy a 4-year-old child.
Steven's father said Saturday he wasn't surprised to learn another child could have been put in harm's way by the same man. "That man should never have gotten out of prison in the first place," Delbert Stayner said from his home in Winton.
"He should've gotten life when he took Stevie all those years ago," he said. Kenneth Parnell, who was convicted in 1980 of kidnapping Steven and a 5-year-old boy, served five years and one month in prison for the crimes - less time than Steven was kept from his family.
Friday night, Parnell, 71, was arrested at his Berkeley home after an informant told police Parnell had expressed interest in buying a child, said agent Karen Sherwood of the state Bureau of Investigation.
Authorities have refused to release many details. However, Berkeley Police Lt. Dennis Ahearn confirmed that the child was never handed over to Parnell and no one else was arrested.
Parnell was booked into the Alameda County Jail for investigation of conspiracy to commit child stealing and solicitation to commit a felony crime.
, authorities said. It wasn't clear Saturday if he had an attorney. An arraignment date had not been set.
The 1972 kidnapping of Steven Stayner was chronicled in the book and 1989 movie "I Know My First Name is Steven."
Parnell held the boy for seven years, renamed him Dennis Parnell and had been passing him off as his son. He kept Steven from running away by showering him with gifts and telling him his parents could no longer afford him.
Then, in 1980, Parnell kidnapped another boy, Timmy White, who was 5 years old at the time.
Steven was 14 when he went to police, bringing the 5-year-old with him. He said he didn't want the younger boy to suffer the same abuse.
"Stevie said he molested him from the very first night he took him," Delbert Stayner said Saturday.
At Parnell's trial, Steven testified that they had lived in motels and trailer parks and that he was ordered to call Parnell "Dad."
In 1988, when Parnell was released from parole, Steven Stayner, then married with two children, said he could never forgive him.
"I pity him for the sickness he has. I wouldn't trust him around any child of any age," he said.
The following year, Steven Stayner was killed in a motorcycle crash. A man convicted of hit-and-run driving in the accident was sentenced to 90 days in jail.
The Stayner family faced another high-profile tragedy a decade later when Steven Stayner's brother, Cary Stayner, was convicted of killing four women at Yosemite National Park, where he had been a hotel handyman. He was sentenced to death last year.
Parnell had grown up in Bakersfield, where his mother ran a boarding lodge, and was in and out of juvenile custody for car theft and arson, according to Dennis McDougal, a former Los Angeles Times reporter who chronicled Parnell's background in his 2000 book, "The Yosemite Murders," about Cary Stayner's rampage.
McDougal said Parnell had also been accused in the 1950s of abducting and molesting an 8-year-old boy, however, neither the state Corrections Department nor the state Justice Department, which maintains the Megan's Law database, could confirm Parnell's status Saturday as a sex offender.
Delbert Stayner said Saturday that Parnell's arrest feels a bit like justice, but it's still too little, much too late.
"In all these years he's been out of jail I don't think children in his area have been safe," he said. "That character right there has caused more problems with our family than anyone ever could have."

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