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Death Penalty Sought in Yosemite

February 11, 2000

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) _ Federal prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty against a former motel handyman charged in the beheading death of Yosemite National Park naturalist.

U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno approved the decision to put Cary Stayner on death row if he is convicted of killing Joie Ruth Armstrong, The Sacramento Bee reported Friday.

U.S. Attorney Paul Seave and Federal Defender Quin Denvir both declined comment.

Stayner, 38, was arrested days after Armstrong was killed in a remote corner of the park on July 21. He has pleaded innocent.

His trial is set to begin in October. It is being heard in federal court because Armstrong was killed inside a national park.

Stayner also faces state charges in the February slayings of Carole Sund, 42, her daughter, Juli, 15, and their Argentine friend, Silvina Pelosso, 16. The three tourists were last seen alive at the Cedar Lodge, where Stayner lived and worked.

Stayner was charged with their deaths in October but has yet to be arraigned. The case is on hold until after the federal trial.

In seeking the death penalty, federal prosecutors cited aggravating factors, including the fact that the murder was committed ``in an especially cruel, heinous and depraved matter″ and with ``substantial planning.″

Though he entered a routine plea of innocent in the Armstrong case, authorities said Stayner confessed to all four killings shortly after his arrest in July.

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