‘Captive Audience’ revisits 1972 Steven Stayner kidnapping

It was a homecoming seven years within the making.

Abducted on the age of seven, a teenage Steven Stayner was lastly returning to his household in Merced, California. Neighbors, well-wishers, gawkers and the media crowded the road to witness the joyous reunion on March 2, 1980.

“Good news stories are not happening very often, even back then they didn’t,” his mom, Kay, remembers in a brand new three-part docuseries on Hulu, “Captive Audience: A Real American Horror Story,” which premieres Thursday, April 21. “I wanted to share Steve’s homecoming with the world. I wanted to share the happiness that we had — the good outcome but then that had a bad side too.”

The collection revisits Steven’s abduction in 1972, his daring escape with one other kidnapping sufferer, and his struggles beneath an intense media glare after he returned house. There was even successful TV miniseries based mostly on his story referred to as “I Know My First Name Is Steven,” which got here out in 1989.  

When Steven returned home, the cameras were there to capture the moment he hugged his parents, Kay and Delbert Stayner.
When Steven returned house on March 2, 1980, the cameras have been there to seize the second he hugged his mother and father, Kay and Delbert Stayner.
Courtesy of Hulu

The relentless consideration was troublesome for Steven, 14, and it turn into much more insupportable for him as particulars in regards to the sexual abuse he suffered by the hands of his captor spilled out. “Having all of the information out, it was painful for Steve, which affected how he continued to grow,” Kay says within the documentary. “He drank heavy. A lot of alcohol and a lot of pot.”

Director Jessica Dimmock informed The Post that she was shocked by what {the teenager} went via within the public eye. “Steven’s suffering was so on display.”

Stolen at 7

On December 4, 1972, Steven was strolling house from faculty when a person stopped him. He requested if Steven’s mom could be enthusiastic about donating to a church. Steven mentioned sure and Ervin Murphy supplied him a experience house. In the automotive was one other man, Kenneth Parnell.

“They passed the road that I lived on and they said that we’ll just call your parents to see if you can stay the night,” Steven says in an interview proven within the documentary.

Steven Stayner was 7-years-old and in the second grade when he was abducted in 1972.
Steven Stayner was 7-years-old and within the second grade when he was kidnapped in 1972.
Courtesy of Hulu

It was the beginning of Kenneth Parnell’s manipulation of the younger boy. He then informed Steven that he went to court docket and had “gotten possession” of him. Every week after his abduction, Steven was informed to name Parnell dad and that he had a brand new title, “Dennis Parnell.”

“At the beginning he sort of, like, brainwashed me to believe that my parents didn’t want me. So after a while, I was happy,” Steven says in an audio recording, sourced from a dialog between him and “I Know My First Name Is Steven” screenwriter JP Miller.

For seven years, Steven and Parnell offered themselves as father and son. As Dennis, Steven was enrolled in colleges, together with one in Point Arena, Calif., which was roughly a 5-hour drive from his hometown.

Meanwhile, his household tried to maintain his disappearance within the information within the hopes of getting info.

Steven says that he was “always scared” of Parnell, which is why he by no means informed anybody in regards to the molestation and rape. “He told me one time not to tell. And he never had to tell me again,” he says.

In mid-February 1980, Parnell kidnapped one other boy, Timmy White — and shortly after Steven began to consider their escape.

On March 1, 1980, the 2 boys walked and hitched some 50 miles from Point Arena to a police station in Timmy’s hometown of Ukiah, California.

Timmy White, 5, who disappeared on Valentine's Day, sits on the lap of Steven Stayner, 14 and tries to blow a balloon up during press conference. Stayner disappeared seven years ago and told the press that he took Timmy from their captor's home because
Timmy White, 5, sits on the lap of Steven Stayner, 14, and tries to blow a balloon up throughout press convention after they escaped from kidnapper Kenneth Parnell in March 1980.
Bettmann Archive
Courtesy of Hulu
The Stayner household in an undated picture.
Courtesy of Hulu

Even after he was house secure, Steven stored quiet about Parnell’s abuse. “What happened was is I didn’t want to talk about,” Steven says. “And so when the police asked me if there was any abuse involved or anything, I denied that there was any.”

But the police then discovered footage of Steven that indicated in any other case. As particulars of the sexual abuse got here out within the media and at Parnell’s trial, Steven was referred to as names, together with a slur for homosexual males, at college.

Triumph, then tragedy

For just a few years, Steven was, as his mother put it, a “rabble rouser.” But finally he reformed.

Steven met his spouse, Jody, whereas working at a butcher store. “Steven was so much more grounded than the other kids. He was real calm,” Jody says within the collection.

They married in 1985, when he was 20 and had two youngsters: Ashley and Steven Jr.

“He was a good dad. He was a good family man. It came natural to him,” Jody remembers.

Steven, 23, with his wife Jody and their two children, Ashley and Steven Jr.
Steven, 23, along with his spouse Jody and their two youngsters, Ashley and Steven Jr.
Getty Images
Steven Stayner
“He was a good dad. He was a good family man. It came natural to him,” Jody, his spouse, remembers within the collection..
Getty Images

Then, towards the top of the Eighties, Hollywood got here calling. “I Know My First Name Is Steven” aired in two components on May 22 and 23, 1989. Actor Corin Nemec starred as Steven and the true Steven had a cameo as a police officer. Jody says he was pleased with the movie, and audiences favored it, too — “nearly 40 million viewers tuned in, making it NBC’s highest rated miniseries in five years,” in accordance with “Captive Audience.”

“That’s unheard of,” Nemec says within the collection. “It really generated a lot of attention to such a touchy subject nobody wants to talk about.”

“I Know My First Name Is Steven” was nominated for 4 Emmy Awards. The evening earlier than the ceremony, Steven was driving his bike house when he was fatally struck by a automotive. He was solely 24.

The household was “devastated” to lose Steven once more, his sister Cory says.

And it wasn’t the final tragedy the household would endure. In 1999, Steven’s older brother Cary killed 4 girls close to and in Yosemite National Park. In 2002, he was sentenced to the demise penalty and is presently on demise row at San Quentin.

About her brothers, Cory says: “How much more could happen in our lives, in one lifetime, in one family.”

Back to top button