On March 18, 1999, Carole Sund and Silvina Pelosso are found dead in their charred rental car in a remote wooded area of Long Barn, California. The women, along with Sund's daughter Juli, had been missing since February when they were last seen alive at the Cedar Lodge near Yosemite National Park. Juli Sund's body was found a week later. The mysterious disappearance of the three women drew national attention and police initially focused their investigation on Eugene Dykes, Michael Larwick, and a group of drug users in Northern California. However, things changed in July, when Joie Ruth Armstrong, 26, a Yosemite Park worker, was found brutally murdered near her cabin in the park. The discovery of Armstrong’s body led investigators to Cary Stayner, 37, who worked at the Cedar Lodge motel, where the Sunds were last seen. Stayner was tracked down and caught in Northern California. Stayner confessed to the murder of Armstrong and then surprised the detectives by admitting that he was also responsible for the murders of the Sunds and Pelosso. Years earlier, Stayner had been on the other end of another high-profile crime. His younger brother, Steven, was abducted in Merced when Cary was eleven years old. Steven Stayner was held captive for more than seven years by Kenneth Parnell. Following his escape, a television movie, I Know My First Name is Steven, dramatized the incident. Steven Stayner died in a tragic motorcycle accident when he was twenty-four. The family saw further tragedy when Jesse Stayner, Cary and Steven's uncle, was shot to death in 1990 during a bungled robbery attempt. Cary Stayner pled guilty to the Armstrong murder in 2001. He was convicted of the other three counts of murder in 2002 and sentenced to death.
Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for www.crimemagazine.com and is the author of numerous books that include Murder and Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California, 1849-1949. The book can be purchased at Amazon through the following link: