Bee reporters answer questions about area crime news, trends and other issues.
QUESTION: In the early to mid-90s I remember a story that had me fearing strangers as a young kid. There was a man who abducted a woman and two or three children. Their vehicle was discovered later in the forest, burned, with the family in the trunk. Is the convicted killer still alive?
Submitted by:Anonymous, Southport
ANSWER: You may be referring to the brutal slaying of three Yosemite sightseers in 1999.
Carole Sund, 42, of Eureka, her 15-year-old daughter, Juli, and a 16-year-old family friend, Silvina Pelosso of Argentina were murdered by Cary Stayner, a motel handyman. According to stories in The Bee, Stayner got into the women's motel room in El Portal late the night of Feb. 15 by claiming that he was a maintenance man checking for a leak in the bathroom.
When he came out of the bathroom, he pulled a gun and told the women he wanted their money and the keys to their car. He bound all three with duct tape, then strangled Carole Sund and Pelosso and put their bodies in the trunk of their rental car. He then used the car to transport Juli Sund to Tuolumne County, where he carried her to a secluded area, sexually assaulted and killed her.
He abandoned and burned the car with the two women's bodies inside. About a month later, the FBI received a handwritten, anonymous letter that included a map directing them to Juli Sund's body.
Authorities said Stayner was interviewed by police following the disappearance of the Sunds and Pelosso. He was not considered a suspect, however, until he was arrested for killing Yosemite nature guide Joie Armstrong outside her cabin in July 1999. Days later, he confessed to all four killings.
Stayner pleaded guilty to Armstrong's slaying in exchange for a sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole, but state prosecutors refused to make a deal in the triple-murder case.
In August 2002, a Santa Clara County jury convicted him kidnapping and murder in the deaths of the Sunds and Pelosso. The same jury later found him to have been sane at the time of the crimes and, in the penalty phase of the trial, decided that he should be executed.
Now 52 years old, Stayner remains on death row at San Quentin State Prison..
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