Kidnapper arrested, accused of trying to buy a child

Sunday, January 5, 2003

SAN FRANCISCO -- Thirty years after the kidnapping of Steven Stayner, a case that shocked the nation and was made into a television movie, the man who snatched the 7-year-old as he walked home from school has been arrested for allegedly trying to buy a 4-year-old child.

Kenneth Parnell, who was convicted in 1980 of kidnapping Steven and a 5-year-old boy, served five years and one month in prison for the crimes -- less time than Steven was kept from his family.

Friday night, Parnell, 71, was arrested again at his Berkeley home after an informant told police Parnell had expressed interest in buying a child, said agent Karen Sherwood of the state Bureau of Investigation.

Authorities have refused to release many details. However, Berkeley Police Lt. Dennis Ahearn confirmed that the child was never handed over to Parnell and no one else was arrested.

Parnell was booked into the Alameda County Jail for investigation of conspiracy to commit child stealing and solicitation to commit a felony crime, authorities said.

The 1972 kidnapping of Steven Stayner and his return to his family years later was chronicled in the book and 1989 movie "I Know My First Name is Steven."

Parnell held the boy for seven years, renamed him Dennis Parnell and had been passing him off as his son. He kept Steven from running away by showering him with gifts and telling him his parents could no longer afford him.

Then, in 1980, Parnell kidnapped another boy, Timmy White, who was 5 years old at the time.

Steven was 14 when he went to police, bringing the 5-year-old with him. He said he didn't want the younger boy to suffer the same abuse.

"Stevie said he molested him from the very first night he took him," Delbert Stayner said Saturday.

In 1988, when Parnell was released from parole, Steven Stayner, then married with two children, said he could never forgive him.

"I pity him for the sickness he has. I wouldn't trust him around any child of any age," he said.

The following year, Steven Stayner was killed in a motorcycle crash.

The Stayner family faced another high-profile tragedy a decade later when Steven Stayner's brother, Cary Stayner, was convicted of killing four women at Yosemite National Park, where he had been a hotel handyman. He was sentenced to death last year.

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