Handyman Admits to 4 Killings
Jul. 27, 1999
YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. (AP) _ A motel handyman described in detail for the FBI and a television reporter how he killed a naturalist and three Yosemite sightseers, saying he had dreamed of such crimes since childhood.
Cary Stayner told a reporter from KNTV of San Jose in an off-camera jailhouse interview Monday how he killed Joie Ruth Armstrong last week and Carole Sund, her daughter Juli and family friend Silvina Pelosso last winter.
``I am guilty,'' the station quoted Stayner as saying. ``I did murder Carole Sund, Juli Sund, Silvina Pelosso and Joie Armstrong. ... None of the women were sexually abused in any way.''
Earlier, he gave the FBI details only the killer would know, in such specificity that agents were able to recover evidence confirming his confession, the Los Angeles Times quoted sources as saying.
Knives were used in the slayings, and the weapon suspected in Ms. Armstrong's death was recovered, the Times reported.
The stunning admission was the latest twist in a strange case dating to mid-February, when the sightseers vanished.
Only days ago, authorities had said they believed those responsible for the high-profile slayings near one of the nation's premier national parks were already behind bars. Stayner, who had worked and lived at the lodge where the three were last seen alive, was questioned months ago and ruled out as a suspect.
Stayner, 37, told KNTV that he had fantasized about killing women for 30 years before acting on his dreams.
He said he strangled Ms. Sund, 42, and Silvina, 16, in their rented cabin at the Cedar Lodge in El Portal, just outside Yosemite's western boundary. He said he then took 15-year-old Juli to a lake, where he killed her the next morning.
The women were reported missing on Feb. 17. It was more than a month before their bodies were found.
Stayner told KNTV he abandoned the group's rental car with the bodies of Ms. Sund and Silvina inside, returning two days later to burn evidence and to retrieve Ms. Sund's wallet, which he dumped in Modesto to confuse authorities.
Stayner said he was the person who tipped the FBI to the whereabouts of Juli's body by sending an anonymous letter.
The suspect also said he thought he had gotten away with the crimes and did not leave the area for fear of drawing attention to himself. Everything changed when he struck up a chance conversation with Ms. Armstrong last week and was unable to resist killing her when he realized she was alone, he said.
Her decapitated body was found last Thursday.
To the victims' families, Stayner said, ``I am sorry their loved ones were where they were when they were. I wish I could have controlled myself and not done what I did.''
FBI agent Nick Rossi said he could not say whether Stayner's statements were consistent with what he has told investigators.
Sources speaking on condition of anonymity told The Associated Press earlier Monday that Stayner confessed to beheading Ms. Armstrong and killing the other women. One source said investigators are trying to corroborate his story and determine whether others were involved.
Stayner said nothing at a court appearance Monday in Sacramento, where a federal magistrate ordered him held pending arraignment Aug. 6 in Fresno.
A grand jury is reportedly looking into whether a loose-knit group of methamphetamine users were involved in the sightseer killings.
``They're not off the hook yet,'' an unidentified source told the San Francisco Chronicle. ``It's very difficult to believe he (Stayner) did this on his own.''
Stayner, an avid outdoorsman with youthful, clean-cut good looks, worked and lived at the Cedar Lodge where the sightseers stayed and Ms. Armstrong was an occasional visitor. His sport utility vehicle was spotted near her remote cabin Wednesday night.
Twice Thursday, park rangers and sheriff's deputies questioned Stayner and searched his car. Once, they grabbed his backpack to look for Ms. Armstrong's head, but found nothing and let Stayner go, according to an FBI affidavit. Ms. Armstrong's head was later found near her body.
Stayner failed to show up for work Friday _ his first absence in a year and a half _ and FBI agents sought him again. He was found at a nudist colony near Sacramento after someone there recognized him from news reports and called authorities.
Stayner then confessed to the agents, the FBI said.
The Stayner name already is part of the annals of California crime. Stayner's younger brother, Steven, was kidnapped in Merced in 1972 and held for seven years by a man who sexually abused him. He escaped and was reunited with his family, but died in 1989, age 24, in a hit-and-run accident.
Stayner's uncle Jesse Stayner died a year later after being shot by his own gun. The Merced County sheriff's office has reopened the case, considering Cary Stayner as a suspect.