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Man Convicted in Yosemite Murders

August 26, 2002

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SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) _ A former motel handyman was convicted Monday of the 1999 slayings of three Yosemite park tourists in a crime that shattered the serene image of one of America’s most treasured places.

Cary Stayner, 41, was found guilty of three counts of first-degree murder and additional felonies, and could face the death penalty.

Defense lawyers had conceded that Stayner killed Carole Sund, 42, her daughter, Juli, 15, and Silvina Pelosso, 16, but they said he was insane and asked jurors to convict him of second-degree murder _ a verdict that would have spared him the death penalty.

The trio had been staying at the rustic motel where Stayner worked as a handyman outside Yosemite National Park.

Their slayings in February 1999 went unsolved for nearly six months until Stayner struck again, snatching Yosemite nature guide Joie Armstrong and beheading her near her cabin in the park. He’s serving life in prison without chance of parole after pleading guilty in federal court to first-degree murder in Armstrong’s death.

Stayner’s lawyers plan to present an insanity defense to try to spare his life. Jurors have already heard extensive testimony from experts that Stayner was impaired by a medley of mental illness symptoms and a deformed brain. At this stage in the trial that evidence was used by the defense to show he didn’t kill intentionally.

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