Kenneth Eugene Parnell, one of California's most notorious child molesters, has died of natural causes while serving a life sentence.
Parnell, 76, died at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville on Monday night, corrections officials said Tuesday.
He was convicted of kidnapping 7-year-old Steven Stayner as the boy walked home from school in Merced in 1972. Parnell gave the boy a different name and kept him until Stayner escaped in 1980.
When Parnell abducted a second boy in Ukiah that year, Stayner fled, taking 5-year-old Timmy White with him to safety. He told Ukiah police that he wanted to save the boy from suffering the same abuse.
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Stayner's story was told in the television movie "I Know My First Name is Steven." He died in a motorcycle crash in 1989 at age 24.
Stayner's brother, Cary, is in San Quentin State Prison awaiting execution for killing Carole Sund, daughter Julie and family friend Silvina Pelosso, who had been sightseeing in Yosemite National Park, and Joie Ruth Armstrong, a Yosemite naturalist, in 1999.
Cary Stayner's parents testified at his trial that they felt they neglected him as a youth because they were preoccupied with searching for his younger brother.
"Pretty much his reaction was he hadn't thought about (Parnell) in years and he didn't care," said San Quentin prison Lt. Sam Robinson. "He was really nonchalant about it."
Stayner's parents, Delbert and Kay, did not return a telephone message left at their home.
"All I can say is, good, I'm glad he's dead," Merced County Sheriff Mark Pazin said.
Pazin was 9 and attending a school in the same neighborhood when Steven Stayner was kidnapped from Merced, which at the time had a little more than 10,000 residents.
"It basically paralyzed that small community," Pazin recalled in a telephone interview. "I just remember my mom was absolutely beside herself. ... You could ride your bike across town and never have a problem. That all came to a screeching halt after Steven was kidnapped."
Parnell was paroled after serving about five years in state prison for the earlier kidnappings. In 2004, he was sentenced to 25 years to life after he had attempted to obtain another child for what prosecutors described then as the "last hurrah" of an aging pedophile.
Prosecutors said he asked the sister of his former caretaker to deliver a 4-year-old boy to his Berkeley apartment in exchange for $500. The woman went to police instead.
Parnell was arrested after he gave the woman $100 in exchange for a birth certificate police provided for a fictitious boy.
"Kenneth Parnell's death brings to a close his long criminal history of victimizing young children," said Alameda County Deputy District Attorney Tim Wellman, who prosecuted Parnell in the 2004 case.
Corrections spokeswoman Terry Thornton said Parnell died in a prison hospice.
"He's been ill for some time," Thornton said, although she did not know the nature of the illness. "He was expected to die and was receiving pastoral care and other medical care."