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Man Held for Yosemite Decapitation

July 25, 1999

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. (AP) _ A motel maintenance man was detained for questioning Saturday in the decapitation of a naturalist in Yosemite National Park, and the FBI hinted at a possible link with the slaying of three park sightseers earlier this year.

Cary Stayner, 38, was taken into custody by federal authorities Saturday morning at a nudist colony in Wilton, Calif., near Sacramento, said a Sacramento County source who spoke on condition of anonymity. Stayner was last seen Thursday night by friends and coworkers at the Cedar Lodge in El Portal, a community at the western edge of the park where he works as a handyman.

Park rangers on Thursday found the body of 26-year-old Joie Ruth Armstrong about four miles from Cedar Lodge.

James Maddock, FBI agent in charge, confirmed at a news conference Saturday that someone had been detained in connection with the case, but would not identify who it was or provide further details.

Maddock said no arrests had been made but he anticipated a ``significant announcement″ to be made at a news conference Sunday at Sacramento’s FBI headquarters.

He also backed off of a statement he made Friday that there was no evidence linking this case the slayings earlier this year of three Yosemite sightseers.

``I am not going to comment on whether there is a link at this time,″ he said. ``In the last 24 hours I have received additional information that may cause me to modify my statement.″

He would not comment on the matter further.

Patty Sailors, whose husband manages the Laguna Del Sol clothing-optional resort, said a man identifying himself as Stayner checked in Friday night.

A visitor recognized Stayner from news reports and called the FBI, Mrs. Sailors said. Stayner, who was not a member of the resort but had visited there several times, was taken into custody about 9 a.m., she said.

Stayner is the brother of Steven Stayner, a kidnap victim who made national headlines in 1980 after he escaped from Kenneth Parnell, a convicted child molester. Steven Stayner, who was held and sexually abused for seven years, died in a 1989 motorcycle crash.

Delbert Stayner, Steven and Cary’s father, told the San Francisco Chronicle that he’s sure his son was not directly involved in the woman’s death, but worries that he may have been a witness.

``My little boy Stevie Stayner went missing for seven and a half years. ... Now my oldest son is missing. I’m kind of torn up over that,″ he said.

The body of Armstrong was discovered a few hundred yards from the park housing she shared with a man and woman, who were away at the time. A park official who spoke on the condition of anonymity told The Associated Press the woman had been decapitated.

Armstrong was initially reported overdue by a friend she was driving to visit in Sausalito, just north of San Francisco. She was last seen alive Wednesday at the park offices of Yosemite Institute, where she worked.

Armstrong was a dedicated educator who was beloved among children, said institute director Mike Lee.

``Joie was a bright light to all who knew her,″ Lee said at the FBI’s news conference Saturday.

Maddock said there was no indication that the victim knew the person who was detained.

The Yosemite Institute’s main offices are in El Portal, and the organization has held conferences at the Cedar Lodge and takes groups there to eat before heading to the park.

El Portal is the town where Eureka residents Carole Sund, her daughter Juli, and family friend Silvina Pelosso of Argentina were last seen alive in February during a sightseeing trip. Their bodies were found a month later. No one has been charged in connection with the case.

The three sightseers stayed at the Cedar Lodge, where Stayner rents a room above the restaurant. He did not work at the lodge at the time the women vanished. El Portal is about 190 miles southeast of Sacramento.

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