RAF Melton Mowbray

Melton Mowbray is a small market town nestling on the edge of Leicestershire. Famous for its racehorses, pork pies and stilton cheese, and certain buildings being part of the divorce settlement of Anne of Cleves when she managed to pick her way out of her marriage to Henry VIII with her head intact, Melton Mowbray also has a plethora of prominent military installations in the vicinity, both in use and no longer operational.

One such place is RAF Melton Mowbray. Now the site of a small industrial centre, a lorry park and occasional Bank Holiday Market, near to and on the old airfield, RAF Melton Mowbray was opened in 1942 and served as an active air base during World War 2, with several Ferry Training Units, and a Ferry Pilot Pool, Number 4 Aircraft Preparation Unit and Mark X AI Conversion Flight operating from the unit for various periods through 1944 and into 1945. Aircraft flying from RAF Melton Mowbray included Spitfires, Mosquitos, Corsairs, Vengeance, Hellcat, Dakotas and Halifax under the umbrella of RAF Transport Command.

Following the end of the War, in 1946 the base was turned over to Polish Airmen and their families, who lived in accommodation close to the airfield. This housing no longer exists and this part of the Station’s life ended in 1958, following which the unit spent four years housing three operational Thor Strategic Missiles, until its eventual closure in 1963.

Although the runway can still be seen and is utilised in the present above named ventures, the technical area of the base has fallen into disrepair. Much of it has fallen in over the years and the Nissen huts now stand derelict, a shadow of their former selves, complete with the obligatory graffiti, car tyres and beer cans, left behind by local youths, perhaps, looking for an out of the way place to hang out. They come prepared though as the strategically positioned toilet roll perched on a small pile of bricks in a corner of a demolished outhouse testifies.

As I walked around on a chilly Easter Sunday, I couldn’t help but imagine the ghostly shadows of long-dead airmen; their cheery voices as they went about the tasks at hand. I could almost hear the distant echoes of those Supermarine engines starting up across the airfield, in the distance, as I trod across the broken slates, and gazed through the broken walls, but it was just some dude flying around in his two-seater. Now the sound of birds and bored rams in the field next door are the only other noises to be heard. And it brought a lump to my throat.


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The Crawford Expedition

Okay, so we looked at the Gnadenhutten Massacre of 1782, here:http://www.historynaked.com/the-gnadenhutten-massacre/
where Pennsylvania Militiamen under the American Army murdered 96 peaceful Christian Native Americans in Ohio. Their people vowed revenge. Today we are going to take a quick look at what led up to this period, and then happened next.

A few years prior to the slaughter at Gnadenhutten, in February 1778 Captain Pipe, a Chief of the Delaware Indians had lost several family members to the Americans in continuously retaliatory acts of violence between the two factions. The Americans, led by General Edward Hand, and consisting of a band of 500 Pennsylvania men had led a surprise march into Ohio, with the hope of locating and destroying British supply camps being used to feed and arm supporting Natives, whilst they carried out their raids on American settlements. The objective failed and the army were forced to withdraw and return to their base. On their return journey, several small incidents occurred whereby the militia committed their own violent attacks on Native villages. It was during one of these incidents, later named the ‘Squaw campaign’ as a derisive nod to the victims being only women and children, that Captain Pipe lost his family members.

Despite this, Pipe determined to remain neutral and as such was one of the signatures on the Fort Pitt Treaty devised and offered to the Americans by fellow chief White Eyes in September of that year. White Eyes passed away shortly after the treaty was signed, although it remains uncertain whether by disease or murder, and the agreement was not ratified. As a consequence, it was put to one side and the terms of the Treaty were not upheld. The main conditions of the treaty being that in return for the Natives in the agreeing tribes remaining neutral, they would receive their lands in Ohio in Perpetua as a Native state following resolution of the conflict between America and Britain. The American forces in their signing, were hoping that the treaty would enable them to cut through the Indian territories to reach British held land and enable them to cut marching times and distances.

Following the death of White Eyes, the alliance fell apart and the Americans resumed their campaign against the Natives, irrespective of whether they were neutral or part of the enemy raiders allied with Britain. Pipe lost his patience with the Americans, and reluctantly moved towards the British side, leading his tribe towards Detroit, re-settling near the Sandusky River. By 1780 violence had increased with several hundred colonists being killed or captured by the British-Indians in the area of Kentucky, and revenge attacks by the American forces led by George Rogers Clark of Virginia decimating two Shawnee towns in August of that year.17359186_429987677343320_1950803457753709285_o

By April 1781 Colonel Daniel Brodhead, as we saw in part one, destroyed Coshocton with those natives finding their way to British held territory, and support, whilst Clark rounded up volunteers for an attack on Detroit, but were defeated and routed by a 100 strong Native force along the Ohio River. Survivors escaped towards Sandusky, where there remained American held towns. Raids continued, between the two opposing forces, during which a white woman and her baby were allegedly killed by Natives. This act enraged Colonel David Williamson who given orders to take part in a further expedition to Sandusky in order to defeat the British and neutralise the threat from the Natives, took 160 Pennsylvania men and rode on towards Native held areas, coming across the Christian Moravians at Gnadenhutten as we have already seen, with the resulting slaughter in March 1782.

This expedition was the brainchild of General William Irvine, commander of the western branch of the Continental Army, following requests from American settlers in the Frontier areas around Ohio to act to stop the persistent Native raids on their settlements. It was felt that if the British were defeated in the West as they all but had been in the East, following a surrender at Yorktown, then their support of the Native raiding parties would be removed and the threat would end. Irvine formulated a plan of attack, and wrote to Commander-in-Chief George Washington, in December 1781 outlining his proposed objective of capturing Detroit, forcing British surrender and then quashing the Indian threat.

Washington agreed the plan was necessary. Irvine worked out his needs, and in February 1782 requested 2000 men, cannon and supplies. Washington refused his request for the supplies and equipment citing US Congress bankruptcy. He did however agree to the outline of the plan, but instructed Irvine to recruit the men, and order that the force provide their own horses, weapons and supplies. None of the men would be paid, however they would receive two months’ exemption from military duty, and would be allowed to plunder and keep whatever gains they could from the Natives.

Williamson’s foray came first, as we have seen, resulting in the murders at Gnadenhutten. Meanwhile in May 1782 a report of the murder and scalping of a Baptist Minister’s wife and children ensured no shortage of volunteers to back up the expedition. Around 500 men, mostly of Scots-Irish descent from the county areas of Washington and Westmoreland, Pennsylvania rendezvoused at Mingo Bottom, Ohio (now Mingo Junction). Several were veterans of the Continental Army and had taken part in previous conflict between colonists and natives, prior to the Revolutionary War. As a volunteer force, the men were given the right to vote on their own commander; the two candidates being Williamson – who was out of favour with the regular officers for his part in Gnadenhutten, but a favourite of the men – and Irvine’s own choice, retired Continental Army Colonel William Crawford, who had taken part in the distasteful ‘Squaw’s campaign’ some years earlier. Crawford was also a friend of Washington’s and his land agent. He won the vote by a majority of just five. Williamson took second in command. Other Officers included Majors Thomas Gaddis, John B McLelland and James Brenton. Dr John Knight, another Continental Army officer was added as expedition Surgeon, and foreign volunteer John Rose was appointed as Crawford’s Aide-de-camp. (More about him in a later post!)

The force’s march towards Detroit began on May 25th 1782, in high spirits. However, the majority of the men were not professional soldiers, and soon found themselves very much out on a limb they didn’t care for. They were ill-prepared, poorly trained and lazy. They ate their rations in the first few days, and resorted to shooting for game, despite orders to the contrary. They were belligerent, slow to muster in a morning and often failed to show up for guard duty. Crawford, for his part, was an equally ineffectual commander. His man struggled to understand his directives which were poorly presented, and they soon lacked respect for him. Rose documented this atmosphere in his journal. As a result of his poor command, the party often had to stop and debate their advance; the men meanwhile began to desert.

On June 4th, the force reached the edge of Upper Sandusky. Unknown to them, the village had relocated a few days previously to a position 8 miles further North. Close to the new village was Captain Pipe’s town, near modern Carey, Ohio. The Americans were unaware of the proximity. A call was made by Williamson to burn the deserted settlement, but Crawford refused on the grounds that this would divide the force, leaving them vulnerable should they be attacked. Many of the men were concerned that the abandonment of the town proved that the enemy were aware of their plans and stated that they should retreat and return home immediately. This proposal was also denied. Instead a scouting party under the leadership of John Rose was sent North to investigate. Two of the men returned shortly thereafter to report that the rest of their group were engaged in a skirmish with a large body of Natives in an effort to delay their advance on the Americans.

In the planning stages, Irvine had reiterated the necessity for surprise attack on the Indians of Sandusky. Washington had also advised the men to avoid being captured alive, at all costs. British forces had been somewhat efficient in their attempts to prevent the traditional torture of prisoners by Indians, prior to their execution, but following Gnadenhutten, all bets were off and torture had recommenced. A captured American had given extensive details of the expedition to his captors before the Americans had even left the meeting point at Mingo Bottom, 10 days prior. British agent, Simon Girty had passed those details to the British Forces in Detroit in order for them to prepare a counter. Girty and his comrades, Alexander McKee and Matthew Elliott – working under Major Arent Schuyler DePeyster, had forged close ties with American Natives. DePeyster was in turn answerable to Sir Frederick Haldimand, Governor-General of British North America.

After a meeting with Tribal chiefs, in the middle of May when they first became aware of the expedition in planning, DePeyster and McKee had warned the Natives of the plan and told them to recruit and prepare. McKee had journeyed to Shawnee territory to recruit further warriors and Captain William Caldwell accompanied by a mounted force of Butler’s Rangers – British Loyalist Troops from the colonies – Detroit Natives and Matthew Elliott headed for Sandusky. A reserve force of British Troops were positioned nearby, and reinforcements from the Shawnee were half a day away and en route. Scouts had spied on the American force from the outset and as they neared, all the women, children and other non-combatants had been hidden in nearby ravines and safe places. British traders had been warned of the impending conflict and had packed up and left town. Captain Pipe appeared with his Delawares and Dunquat with his force of Wyandots and Mingos also arrived.

The Natives engaged with Rose’s scout party who had stashed their supplies in a small wooded grove, which formed the initial battle on that first afternoon. Rose was soon reinforced by Crawford and the main body of the men, who had hastened North after receiving word from the returning scouts. Pipe and his Delawares formed the main branch of the Native force that afternoon with the Wyandot hanging back in reserve and the British secreted nearby for reinforcement. At the end of two hours, the Americans had secured the grove, and Crawford after ordering his men to dismount, continued to engage with the natives on the plains outside the woods. Dunquat entered the fray with the Wyandots, joined rapidly by Elliott with his force. Elliott being a skilled soldier, took charge of the natives and co-ordinated the defence. The Delawares managed to outflank the Americans and attacked them from the rear. The Americans responded by climbing trees and sniping from above, the Natives hiding nearby in long grass.

With minimal losses to both sides, around five dead each and slightly more wounded from the Americans to the Natives, the battle tailed off as darkness fell. Fighting ceased and the men slept surrounded by fires, fully clothed and armed. Several of the Americans deserted that night, reporting that Crawford’s army were decimated when they reached home. Scalpings of the dead took place in the night, on both sides.

The next morning, fighting resumed, although the Natives hung back, firing from a considerable distance of around 2-300 yards, which rendered their muskets ineffectual at that range. Americans mistakenly believing that the Indians had suffered far heavier losses on the first day, leaving them reluctant to engage. In reality, it was a false lure they were providing, keeping the American’s somewhat engaged, but from a safe distance while they awaited their reinforcements. Crawford feeling that victory was within his grasp, decided to hold his position until nightfall and then mount a surprise attack in the dark, a time when Indians were well known to disengage from battle. Despite being low on water and ammunition, he was confident of defeating the natives, even after Simon Girty rode up carrying a white flag and advised them to surrender. Crawford refused. Shortly afterwards, it was noted that around 100 British forces were amongst those they were fighting. This was a bit of a surprise to Crawford and the others, who drew aside to discuss how the British managed to reinforce so quickly from Detroit, and what their next plan was in light of this development. As they debated, Alexander McKee quietly slipped in behind the American force with around 140 Shawnee warriors, led by Chief Blacksnake. The Americans were surrounded.

A great cacophony of “joyful fire” was shot into the air by the Shawnee, which alerted the Americans to their presence, and their own possible fate, which completely destroyed any morale that may have lingered. A hasty decision was taken to withdraw under nightfall, rather than mount that attack. Discreet preparations were made, wounded were loaded onto biers, the dead were buried and fires lit on their graves to prevent desecration. As darkness fell, the Americans began a quiet withdrawal, but their movement was detected by highly attentive Indian sentries, who attacked causing widespread panic and confusion. The retreating force was split into many small groups, unable to locate each other in the dark. The militia, by now terrified and disorientated, abandoned the wounded and fled. As they ran past Crawford and Dr Knight at the edge of the battlefield, Crawford called out for his missing son, John, his nephew William and his son in law William Harrison. Once alone, unable to find his boys, and with all the men now departed, Crawford, Knight and two men who had chosen to stay with them rather than go it alone, made their retreat.

By the following morning, the main body of around 300 remaining Americans had reached the same deserted Wyandot town that they had wanted to destroy just three days earlier. With Crawford missing, Williamson took command. The British force chased them but were slightly unorganised due to their commander, Caldwell having sustained injuries to both legs, hindering their progress somewhat. Williamson convinced the men that their only chance of escape was to stay together and retreat as a mass body, as further attacks would be forthcoming. Separation meant certain death when one was part of a small group. The Natives eventually caught up to the Americans and engaged them again. Several of the militia fled, some stood around unsure what to do. Williamson gathered a small party who defended and successfully put off the attack after about an hour of battle. The remainder remustered under Williamson and kept retreating. After about 30 miles of following, and firing from a distance, the natives abandoned the hunt the next day, knowing victory was theirs, and returned home, killing two stragglers they happened upon. The surviving Americans eventually reached Mingo Bottom on June 13th, followed over several days by small numbers of stragglers.

On June 7th, two days after the main battle ended, a band of Delawares came across Crawford, Knight and four stray men who had joined them, around 28 miles from the battlefield. Knight was prepared to stand and fight, but Crawford told him it was pointless, and they surrendered. The four militiamen managed to escape, although two were later tracked down and killed. Crawford and Knight were taken prisoner and the Delawares took them to Chief Wingenund, the same day. When they arrived, there were nine other captives already there. The eleven men were held for four days, before Captain Pipe arrived and painted their faces black, a sign of sentence to execution. They were then taken to a Delaware Town on Tymochtee Creek, near to the present town of Crawford. Four of the men were killed and scalped on the march. When they arrived, the remaining men were forced to sit as a congregation of Natives were addressed by Captain Pipe. Crawford and Knight were separated from the others during this speech. The five remaining men were executed in front of them, by the women and young boys, one of the men being beheaded. Their scalps were then slapped in the faces of Crawford and Knight.

Captain Pipe told the gathered tribes, which included some Wyandot and Chief Dunquat, that Crawford was the commander of the men during the recent battle, who had previously carried out the massacre of the Christian Delawares at Gnadenhutten, although he wasn’t there on that occasion. Pipe also stated that Crawford had been present during the Squaw campaign when his family were killed amongst others. When Pipe finished talking, Crawford was stripped naked, and the torture began. He was beaten with rocks, his ears were cut off. He was tied to a post and a fire lit nearby. As warriors shot gunpowder charges into his body. He was poked with burning sticks from the fire and red-hot coals were thrown at him, before he was forced to walk on them. Girty and Elliott looked on, and at one point Crawford begged Girty to shoot him. Girty refused, unwilling to intervene in tribal justice.
After around two hours of torture, Crawford passed out. A bucket of hot coals was thrown onto his head by one of the women, which revived him. He was scalped. Following a further period of torture, by which time Crawford was delirious, and randomly walking around, he finally died. His body was then burned. Knight witnessed the whole incident. The next day, he was taken for his own execution by the Shawnee. However, en route, he managed to knock out his guard with a log and escaped on foot. After a number of weeks, he made it to Pennsylvania where he was found completely insensible and extremely sick, by a group of hunters who carried him to nearby Fort McIntosh where he recovered.

Six other prisoners were captured on the same day as Crawford was executed. They were taken to the Shawnee village of Wapatomica, where four of them were painted black. Two lines were then formed of the gathered natives, and the six men were forced to run through the line. The natives were armed with clubs and told to focus their beatings on the men who were painted. As they ran towards the council building 300 yards away at the other end of the line, they were beaten. Before they reached the end, they were hacked to death with tomahawks. Their bodies were then cut into pieces and set on spikes around the village perimeter. Three of those men were Major McLelland, and Crawford’s son in law and nephew, William Harrison and William Crawford.
The other two men were taken the next day to the village of Mac a chack where they were told they were going to be burned. One of them, a scout called John Slover managed to escape and stole a horse, which he rode naked, until the beast collapsed. He carried on, on foot reaching Fort Pitt on July 10th. He was one of the last survivors to return.

An Historical marker stands in the place where William Crawford’s body was burned following his execution. A replica memorial close to the original, which is no longer accessible, stands in Ritchy-Crawford Cemetery, Crawford, Ohio. https://www.findagrave.com/cgibin/fg.cgi…


The Gnadenhutten Massacre

It was 1782 and America had been at war with the British for several years as a part of their claim for independence. Caught up in this conflict were tribes of Native Americans, particularly along the Ohio river and into Ohio Country. These tribes consisted for the most part of Shawnee, Delawares. Mingos and Wyandots. For some years previously, as part of the Border conflict, there had been a series of raids on frontier settlements, by bands of aggressive Natives opposed to the expansion of the American colonists territory at the cost of native land. The resulting tension manifested in raids where small parties of natives would enter settlements and on occasion civilians from frontier families were killed, including women and children.

As the Revolutionary war intensified and dragged on, a large number of tribes were unsure of how to proceed, particularly those based around the Sandusky plains. With the Americans facing them to the far side of the Ohio river, and the British encamped to the rear, towards Detroit, their position was tenuous, and the natives often found themselves caught up in the fighting. Several bands had moved on North and West with the intent on continuing their aggression towards the Americans, particularly in areas of modern day Kentucky, Virginia and Pennsylvania. Other natives felt their better prospect would be to join the British forces. The majority chose to remain neutral in the hope that they would be able to bargain their way into retaining the new areas of Ohio Country that they had settled as a Native state, and a peace treaty was proposed to this effect – the Treaty of Fort Pitt (1778). Sadly, White-Eyes, the Chief who negotiated the deal, died, allegedly of smallpox, before the agreement was ratified and the new US Congress let the matter drop. In a letter to Congress some years later, American diplomat for the natives, George Morgan stated that White Eyes had in fact been murdered by American militiamen.

Following the demise of White Eyes, and the choice of natives to fight or remain neutral, several had chosen to remain in the area of Coshocton, in small villages. Amongst them were tribes of Christian converted Native Lenape, ministered by Moravian missionaries, David Zeisberger and John Heckewelder, amongst others. Hostile natives from the village of Coshocton were forced out by an expeditionary force led by American Colonel Daniel Brodhead in April 1781. Several were killed and survivors abandoned the village. Brodhead persuaded his men to leave the “friendly” Moravian Christian natives in peace, however Coshocton was razed to the ground.

If all this inter-fighting wasn’t enough, the American forces had an extra issue to deal with, in that the regular Continental Army the majority of whom were seasoned officers from the East, and the American Militiamen with whom they were united, were for the most part untrained civilian volunteers from the West, didn’t follow the same rule book when it came to rules of engagement. Couple with the American’s new policy of recruitment amongst the natives, many of whom were from tribes who were responsible for raids and deaths amongst the settlers in the west, whose family members they now fought alongside, and it wasn’t difficult for the militiamen to forget who was friendly and who was not. They viewed all the natives with the same mistrust and hate.
In September 1781, Native Americans fighting on the side of the British, moved into the area under orders and moved all the Lenape Moravian Indians Northwest to Sandusky to a compound village, Captive town. The missionaries, Zeisberger and Heckewelder were taken under guard to Detroit to answer charges of supplying intelligence information to the Americans, which they denied. They were subsequently acquitted. In their absence, the Indians were beginning to starve, due to lack of rations. By February of 1782, over 100 of the Moravians had decided to return to their former homes in the area of Gnadenhutten, in order to gather the harvest and other supplies that they had been unable to take with them.17191467_426213327720755_855489234442097550_n

After just a few short weeks, in early March, a raiding party of 160 Pennsylvanian Militiamen led by Lt Col. David Williamson, entered the village and took the Christian natives by surprise. They were quickly rounded up and accused of joining enemy natives allied to the British, in raids on American settlements, causing wounding and death to civilians. The natives of course denied the charges but faced a mock trial nonetheless where the majority of Pennsylvanians voted to put them to death. A number of the militia, horrified at the proceedings, refused to take part, and left the region. Obidiah Holmes Jr was one of those who refused to take a part in the injustice against the Lenape. Later in life as a minister himself, he wrote of his family’s part in the Revolution, and made mention of the events at Gnadenhutten.
“one Nathan Rollins & brother [who] had had a father & uncle killed took the lead in murdering the Indians […] Nathan Rollins had tomahawked nineteen of the poor Moravians, & after it was over he sat down & cried, & said it was no satisfaction for the loss of his father & uncle after all”
After being advised that they had been condemned to die, the Natives were led to two huts for the night, to prepare for their execution the next day. The men were locked in one, and the women and children in the other. They spent the night praying, singing hymns and comforting one another. The next morning, March 8th, 1782, the militia tied them up, forcing them to kneel, then set to work with mallet blows to their heads. Most also had their throats cut with a sharp blade. Several were scalped. In all, 96 were murdered, 28 men, 29 women and 39 children. The militia then looted all their belongings, taking whatever they thought they could use, sell or trade, weighing down several horses with the plunder.

They then piled up all the bodies in the missionary building where just nine years earlier on July 4th 1773, the first white child to be born in Ohio, had been birthed in and set the building on fire. They went around and burned all the other buildings, in an attempt to remove all traces of the existence of the natives. They continued their fiery justice into the other villages in the area, the aim being to make it difficult for any to return. Two young native boys however, survived the massacre and after quietly escaping, reached safety where they told the horrified greeters the story of the murders. The news of the massacre soon spread. Several frontiersmen received the news with glee, however most settlers were disgusted at the actions of their countrymen against innocent women and children, and were of course terrified of retaliation.

It would be a few years before John Heckewelder was able to return to Gnadenhutten, but when he arrived, he set to work and gathered as many of the remains as he was able to find, carrying them to the South side of the village, where he buried them in a mound as was custom of the time. A monument to the massacre victims was erected in June 1872 where the centre of the village once stood. Some buildings have been reconstructed, the entire area is preserved and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. No criminal charges were brought against Williamson and his command, despite it being common knowledge that they were responsible for the massacre. George Washington was forced to issue an official warning to the American armies to avoid being captured alive at all costs. The British Lenape had vowed vengeance….


The Yosemite Killer and the Abducted Boy (Part Two)


So, in part one (http://www.historynaked.com/yosemite-killer-abducted-boy-part-one/), we looked at the horrific crimes of Cary Stayner, currently awaiting execution on California’s death row, pending a decision on Proposition 66, to move forward with the death penalty. In this second part we will be looking at the tragic twist in the tale.

Cary Stayner was the child of Delbert and Kay Stayner. One of five siblings, we are now going to focus on his younger brother Steven. Born in April 1965, Steven was the apple of his parents’ eye. Cary often later stated that he was their favourite and that subsequent events to be described here, caused to alienate him somewhat, and perhaps contributed to his later crimes. One witness at the time during the search for the victims, overheard Cary grumble “Why didn’t the FBI look this hard for my brother?” He went so far as to have his brother’s traumatic experience lodged during his trial as a factor in his own behavior possibly causing a form of insanity, despite stating that his violent fantasies began long before the events I am about to discuss.

On December 4th, 1972, seven-year-old Steven Stayner was walking down the street near to his family home on his way home from school, when he was approached by Ervin Edward Murphy, a rather simple-minded, naïve employee of nearby Yosemite National Park. Murphy claimed to be a church representative, handing out religious tracts to young boys, and seeking donations to the Church he claimed to work for. He approached Steven and asked if he felt his mother would be willing to make a donation. Steven was an open, fairly trusting boy and knew his mother had a generous heart and a respectable faith in God. She was a lapsed member of the Church of Latter Day Saints, who had converted to Catholicism some years previously. Steven agreed to take the man to his house to meet with his mother.

A car pulled up thereafter and Murphy invited the young boy in, taking a seat himself. The car was driven by Kenneth Parnell, a colleague of Murphy’s at the Park. Unknown to Steven, Parnell was also a notorious paedophile with a conviction for sex offences with a young boy going back to 1951 for which he received a four year jail sentence. Parnell had coerced Murphy by passing himself off as an aspiring Church minister, stating that he wanted to take a young boy and raise him as his own son in a religious manner. Steven recalls feeling very confused when the car did not take him home as planned but instead drove him to Parnell’s home, a cabin in Catheys Valley. It would later be revealed that this cabin was situated only a few hundred feet from Kay Stayner’s father’s home.

Parnell told the young boy that his parents could not afford to keep all their children and that he had been granted custody by a judge. He said Steven’s parents no longer wanted him. It was enough to subdue the scared little boy. Early the next morning, Parnell committed what would be the first of a sustained series of sexual attacks, beginning with molestation and quickly escalating to rape within a matter of days, on the young boy, which would ultimately last several years.

Over the following years, Steven was given a new identity, Denis, although his middle name and birthday were kept as his own. He attended school locally, although house moves were frequent and covered distances of up to 200 miles, and was encouraged to call Parnell “Dad” and Murphy, a consistent presence, was “Uncle Murphy”. Parnell on occasion attempted to employ Steven into assisting with the abduction of other boys; however, despite his own peculiar situation, Steven knew his experiences were somehow wrong, and deliberately botched these further kidnap attempts out of some instinctive need to protect the potential victims from the abuse he suffered.

Eventually, and as Steven hit puberty, Parnell grew tired of Steven inept abilities to procure him a new “toy”, and his physical desire for the boy was waning as he approached maturity. Out of desperation, Parnell enlisted the help of one of Steven’s peers, a minor by the name of Randall Sean Poorman, and between them on February 14th, 1980, they cruised the neighborhood of Ukiah, until they spotted five-year-old Timothy “Timmy” White, playing out front of his parent’s home. They approached the boy and tried to get him into the waiting car. Timmy refused and attempted to escape into his home; Poorman shoved him against a chain link fence before the pair dragged him kicking and screaming into the car and drove away.

That night as missing child alerts flew around, posters were put up and police authorities began a search for the missing five-year-old, Parnell dyed the little boy’s white blond hair dark and told him his new name was Tommy. Over the next few days, he passed the boy off as Steven’s younger brother. Timmy remained severely upset and distressed, crying often and asking for his parents. Steven did everything to protect the boy, not wanting him to suffer in the same way he himself had.

After two weeks of being unable to comfort the child, Steven resolved to return him to his parents. He waited until Parnell left one night for his shift as a security guard, before taking the little boy and leaving the house in the remote backwoods. Carrying Timmy on his back, Steven walked for some distance, before the pair were stopped and offered a lift to Ukiah by a passing trucker. However, upon reaching Timmy’s neighbourhood, the little boy was unable to remember his address and didn’t recognise any of the streets, so the two were taken to a local Police Station. Steven attempted to usher the little boy inside, hoping that he might be recognised by the officers and reunited with his family. His own plans as to what he was going to do next, were never revealed.

The police spotted the pair and initially were suspicious of the older boy, so detained them both. It quickly became apparent who Timmy was, but as a result of systematic brain-washing over a long period of time, and his own young age at his abduction, identifying Steven proved to be a lot harder. When questioned, he stated “I know my first name is Steven” and offered his birthday as April, and felt his family name may have been Staner or similar. With these piecemeal details and gentle questioning, it became apparent that Steven too was an abducted child. Trawling through missing children reports going back several years, officers eventually identified “Dennis Parnell” as missing Steven Stayner. It was now March 2nd 1980 and Steven had been missing for over seven years.

Cary Stayner was travelling home after spending time camping with some friends in the National Park when he heard the news on the radio that Steven had been found. He rushed home and was in time to greet his long-lost missing brother; the family had never given up hope that Steven would return to them one day. Timmy was also reunited with his family. Steven was hailed as a hero for keeping him safe and returning him to his home. Parnell was arrested that day.

Initially Steven did not report the sexual violence he had experienced at Parnell’s hands, however it soon became apparent, with investigations into Parnell’s background and criminal history, that the man was a convicted child molester, and at that point it was revealed just exactly the nature of the ongoing abuse Steven had received, and saved little Timmy from enduring. Archives do not reveal whether Parnell made any attempt to molest Timothy White during his 16 days of captivity. However, when the case came to trial, Parnell was charged with two counts of kidnapping, and being found guilty, was sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment. Five for the abduction of Timothy White, and two for the abduction of Steven Stayner. The sexual abuse and rapes were not listed in charges due to being outside jurisdiction and the statute of limitations of the counties involved. The authorities also felt that by drawing attention to it, they were burdening Steven with the label of sexually damaged goods. Barbara Matthias, a sometime girlfriend of Parnell’s was mentioned during the trial as having lived with Steven and Parnell for a period of around 18 months about two years after his abduction. She engaged in sexual activity with Steven when he was nine years old on several occasions with Parnell. Matthias later claimed she was unaware Steven had been abducted, yet admitted helping in a failed attempt to lure another boy into the car during 1975. Barbara Matthias was never charged with any crimes. Poorman and Murphy served light sentences on lesser charges, Steven having testified to their kindness despite their involvement in the abductions. California abduction laws were later changed following Steven’s and Timmy’s ordeals, based on their experiences to allow consecutive prison terms for multiple offences.

Parnell was released after serving just five years. Cary Stayner, initially overjoyed at having his little brother home, soon felt more estranged than ever, after seven years of being pushed away by his parents, and witnessing their grief over losing their younger son, he now had to watch from the sidelines as Steven’s story became the focus of first national and then international interest. Book deals were signed, films were proposed and a TV mini-series was planned. Almost daily there were news segments, and interviews. Eventually, Cary was to move out. Steven also had trouble settling back into his role within the family and his previous life. During his captivity, his freedoms had been unusual for a boy his age. He had been allowed to drink and smoke, including marijuana; he came and went as he wanted.

Now he was home again, the Stayners were confused when Steven didn’t fit into the 14-year-old niche they had mapped out for him. In their minds, he was still a seven-year-old boy and yet, as he said himself, he was pretty much a grown man, if not in years, in experience. His father refused all but the briefest of therapies for him, his abuse was not discussed. Delbert would shrug off suggestions of help with the outlook that Steven was dealing with his trauma adequately without outside help. He was wrong. Despite the rudimentary measures placed to prevent stigmatizing Steven’s abuse, following his return to High School, he became the target of cruel name-calling and bullying. His peers taunted him as gay, and accused him of allowing the rapes to happen. He soon dropped out.

Steven did, however, make ongoing attempts at adjusting into a normal life. He married young, to seventeen-year-old Jody Edmonton, and soon became the father of two small children, a daughter Ashley and a son, Steven Jr. He gave talks to schoolchildren about being aware of strangers. Despite small estrangements in his marriage, he continued to work at normal family life, returning to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and took employment.

On the afternoon of September 17th, 1989 at the age of 24, Steven was making his way home from his shift at the Pizza Hut on a motorbike that he had purchased with some of the money paid out from the rights to his story and its release as the TV Mini-series, when he was hit by a car driven by a migrant worker exiting a junction onto the highway, along which he was travelling. Steven was not licensed to ride the bike, nor was he wearing a helmet, his having been stolen some two months previously. Steven was taken to the local hospital where he died a short time later of head injuries.

News of his death caused a further outpouring of emotion from the nation, and from his family and others involved in his life. It was claimed that after hearing the news, Kenneth Parnell cried for the first time in many years, the last time being when he himself had been molested as a thirteen-year-old by a boarder at his mother’s lodging house. Cary Stayner, now living with his Uncle Jesse (Jerry?) who would be violently murdered the following year was devastated by the news, having never managed to develop the relationship he perhaps craved with his brother that others took for granted. He would later claim Steven’s trauma and the impact on the family unit led to his own violent behavior, culminating in the murders of four women in 1999 in the Yosemite Park area, coincidentally the location of the majority of his brother’s captivity, for which he currently awaits the death penalty. Delbert grieved openly for his son, however was able to come to terms with the tragedy in a more healthy way, stating words to the effect that “Steven has gone, this time we know where, and we know he isn’t coming back” Kay however was deeply affected by the news of her son’s death. Her daughter Jody later said that Steven was never really theirs, they only borrowed him for a short time. He was Steven as a little boy trapped inside Dennis, a man. He was only getting his life on track as Steven, when they lost him for good.

Timothy White, by now a fourteen-year-old held out that Steven was his savior, and guardian angel during his brief abduction. Following his death, Timmy acted as pall-bearer at Steven’s funeral. He too would later travel and give interviews about their experiences, and warn children of the dangers of strangers. In a cruel twist, in April 2010, now aged 35, and married with two small children of his own, Timothy White suffered a pulmonary embolism, and died. He was working at the time as a Los Angeles Deputy Sherriff.

In 2004, White had cause to be called to give evidence at a new trial for Kenneth Parnell. Following a previous stroke, Parnell was now paralysed and housebound. He had a carer and had asked her to procure a young boy for him. He offered her money. Knowing his past, his carer reported the request to the police who enlisted the carer’s help in a sting operation. Parnell gave her a list of requirements, that the boy must be small, with a clean rectum – confirming the intention that Parnell intended to rape the boy – and a birth certificate was purchased. Parnell told her he intended to raise the boy as his own, as he did with Steven and White. He wanted a family. When the police moved in to arrest Parnell, they found framed portraits of Steven and Timmy, with a blank space for son number three – his intended victim. They also found sexual aids indicative of prospective sodomy, and child pornography. Kenneth Parnell was subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment on the “three strikes” mandate.

Timothy White gave evidence at Parnell’s trial, and Steven Stayner’s testament from Parnell’s earlier trial was also read out as part of the proceedings. White also came face to face with Randall Poorman that day, for the first time since his abduction. The two men hugged – White having forgiven the older man for his role in the kidnapping. He believed Poorman to be a victim of Parnell’s evil manipulation as much as he was. Parnell died in 2008 whilst in prison, of natural causes. Delbert Stayner passed away in 2013.

In 1999 a proposition was put forward to rename several local parks in the Merced area to honour outstanding citizens of the city. The Stayners suggested that one park could be called Stayner Park, in memory of Steven. Their request was denied as it was felt the name could have negative connotations as a result of their other son Cary’s recent conviction for multiple murders. Statues in Applegate and Ukiah later honoured Steven, one depicting him leading Timmy by the hand to freedom, dedicated as a beacon of hope for all abducted children, that they would return.


The Yosemite Killer and the Abducted Boy (Part One)

Bit of a gruesome one today, one of a two-part series with a tragic twist.


Sitting in a cell in San Quentin Penitentiary with a death penalty conviction, is 55-year-old Cary Stayner. Stayner was born in August 1961 in Merced, California, one of five children, to Delbert and Kay Stayner. He had three sisters and a younger brother.

In 1999, Stayner was tried and convicted of the murders of Carole Sund, her 15-year-old daughter Juli, a visiting Argentinian friend, 16-year-old Silvina Pelosso and Yosemite Park employee Joie Armstrong. Stayner was employed as a part-time handy-man at the Cedar Lodge Motel. His co-workers described him as a normal, friendly guy. Stayner appeared to enjoy nature and walking up in the Parks. During his childhood, the Stayner family had often gone out camping in the area. Stayner was later to describe how he grew up with fantasies of killing women; once at a very young age, whilst out shopping, imagining shooting all the women in the store, and setting fire to it. Another time fantasizing similar actions with his co-workers at a previous job. Stayner suffered something of a breakdown during this particular employment and following a brief treatment, never returned to his place of work, instead heading out to the Park and securing the position at the Motel.

At some point, possibly early in 1999, Stayner put together a murder kit consisting of rope, tape and a large serrated knife. He had, it seemed, reached the decision to act out his fantasies, and set to work finding a victim. After two abandoned attempts, one of a group of teenaged girls, Stayner noted motel guest Carole Sund, her daughter Juli and guest Silvina staying in one of the rooms. Carole and her daughter had spoken with Carole’s father earlier that day and were said to have been having a great time, going on walks and ice-skating. That evening on or shortly after February 15th (the last time the group were seen alive), Stayner knocked on the motel room door and feigned investigation of a leak from the bathroom of the room above. Carole was reluctant to let him in, telling Stayner there was no leaking in their room, but was eventually persuaded by Stayner to let him in to check.

After occupying himself in the bathroom for a few minutes, whilst the women were in the living area, Stayner went into the room, where the girls were watching a video, armed with a gun. He quickly tied all three up, before leading the teenagers into the bathroom. Going back into the lounge he approached Carole, who presumed the motive was robbery, and strangled her with the rope. Later he would state that the murder took around five minutes, claiming that it was harder to strangle somebody than he expected. He removed Carole’s body to the trunk of her rental Pontiac, and re-entered the motel room.

Gathering the girls into the lounge once again, he stripped the girls, and sexually assaulted both before demanding they commit sex acts on each other. Silvina at this point was sobbing so loud that Stayner then removed her to the bathroom, forcing her to kneel in the bath, where he strangled her also. He then took Juli into a room next door to allow her to use the bathroom, and spent the rest of the evening, into the small hours assaulting her. As time slipped by, he cleaned up the rooms and loaded Juli into the front passenger seat of the Pontiac and drove away. He would later state that at this time, Juli was unaware her mother and Silvina were dead, and their bodies were in the trunk.16729531_413898048952283_8291508048669852552_n

After driving for some time, Stayner pulled off the highway at a point a few miles from the Don Pedro Reservoir. He carried Juli, wrapped in a pink blanket to an overlook of the reservoir where he assaulted her again and then slashed her throat, almost severing her head. He looked away as she died, later stating that he took a hand gesture from her to mean she wanted him to finish her off. When she appeared dead, he hid her body in thick bushes and returned to the Pontiac which he drove back down towards the highway, where he abandoned the car. He made his way along the highway, a couple of miles to nearby Sierra Village, where he phoned for a cab, driven by Jenny Paul who only remembered the incident later when Stayner was arrested. His statement noted that Stayner seemed haggard-looking but friendly enough and talkative. She was somewhat bemused at his request to be driven 90 miles to Yosemite Lodge, a trip costing $125. She recalled an unusual conversation regarding legendary Bigfoot, asking Jenny if she believed the story. Jenny replied that she didn’t, to which Stayner said “You should. Because he’s real.” Stayner’s interest in Bigfoot was well known amongst his colleagues and social circle.

After a search lasting a number of weeks, in March 1999 a hiker stumbled across the burned-out wreck of the Pontiac and notified authorities from the FBI. Stayner had returned to the vehicle a few days after the murders and set fire to it. He had also dumped Carole’s wallet in a street in Modesto, to put investigators off the trail. Upon initial examination of the car, the bodies of Carole and Silvina were discovered in the trunk, and were positively identified by dental records. A week or so later, an anonymous note was delivered to the authorities, containing a map, showing the location of the remains of Juli Sund, which were subsequently recovered. The note stated “we had fun with this one”.

Enquiries drew a blank. There appeared to be few leads; Stayner was interviewed along with all employees and visitors to the motel at the time of the murders. He was disregarded as a suspect because he seemed to be a nice, friendly man, with no previous convictions, save for an incident of possession of marijuana two years previously for which charges had been dropped, and an alleged suicide attempt several years prior in 1991. Forensics drew little information; Stayner was even tasked with showing the federal agents around key sites in the motel in their mostly futile efforts to gather evidence. Later he would state that he cleaned up well, as he “watched discovery channel”, going as far as to sweep his hair off the bedsheets and so forth. The authorities turned their attention to known local vagrants and petty criminals.

The FBI issued a statement to the effect that they had in custody two half-brothers, Michael Larwick and Eugene Dykes who were known drug-users and had previous convictions for a range of crimes. In the days surrounding the murders, both had been involved in run-ins with the local police in the area of Modesta; Larwick was suspected of shooting a police officer, and Dykes of possession of illegal substances and parole violations. It was also stated the Dykes had made certain statements implicating himself in the murders. The FBI would claim there was forensic evidence linking the pair to the crimes.

In July 1999, the urge to kill struck again. This time Stayner headed out to Yosemite Institute. After scouting around for a while he happened across the cabin of Park employee Joie Armstrong and her boyfriend, Michael who was also a ranger, together with another room-mate. Joie was alone for the first time that weekend since moving in with the others, who had both gone on visits out of town. Despite being a vibrant outgoing young 26-year-old, with a keen love of nature, Joie had mentioned to a friend being nervous of staying in the secluded cabin on her own following the murders of Carole Sund and her party, and had made her own arrangements to visit with friend. When she failed to arrive, her friends notified authorities.

On call Yosemite physician Dr Desmond Kidd had just finished a busy 24-hour shift at the Park clinic, and returned to his lodgings when his pager went off. The despatcher notified him of a missing person search being put underway, “with law enforcement implications.” The recent murder of Carole and Juli Lund and Silvina Pelosso in nearby Cedar Lodge were fresh in his mind, so although finding missing hikers was a regular occurrence for Kidd, he knew straight away this search was different. The convoy of searchers arrived initially at Joie’s home where they found her packed pick-up ready for her trip to Sausalito.

The search squad decided to begin in the area of the cabin and split into five squads each containing five or six persons. Dr Kidd made the decision to follow the route of the nearby Crane Creek and the surrounding woods and brush. By now it was midday and quite hot, as the small group bushwhacked their way through the undergrowth. After a short period of time they noticed broken twigs, saplings and trodden grass and foliage, along with footprints. It all indicated somebody very recently running through the bushes so they followed the trail until one of the party noticed something metallic glistening off the sun. He pointed, and asked “What’s that?” Dr Kidd investigated and found something like a keyring in the water of the creek, reflecting the sun. To his horror a few feet away in the creek lay the body of a woman, dressed in jeans and white T-Shirt; She had been decapitated. Her head lay around forty feet away. Gagging, he returned to the Ranger in charge and notified him of the discovery.

Stayner had approached the wary young woman, and drawn her into a conversation about Bigfoot, claiming to have seen him in the area above the cabins. Realising quite quickly she was alone, he pulled out a gun, and ordered her into the cabin. Once inside, he bound her with the rope and gagged her with duct tape before taking her back outside and placing her in the passenger seat of his car, a blue and white International Scout. Stayner drove up the track from her home with his victim, but as he turned near a parking area where the track meets the Foresta road, Joie managed to open the passenger door and flung herself out in a bid to escape. She landed and picked herself up, before starting to run for her life through the trees towards a nearby cabin where a friend lived. She made it 150 yards before Stayner caught up with her, grabbing her from behind; he reached around and sliced across her throat with his knife, repeatedly slashing at her neck until he severed her head.

Stayner panicked now. He hadn’t anticipated his victim attempting to flee, he assumed she would go quietly as in his previous murders. Without a plan, he quickly dumped her headless body in the creek, and abandoned her head some distance away. Climbing back into his car, he drove quickly away, but didn’t get too far, when the Scout broke down on the El Portal road, a few miles away from Cedar Lodge. Ditching the Scout, he walked down the road, before flagging down a passing Ranger, and hitching a lift. The Ranger noted later that he suspected nothing. Stayner was affable, calm and friendly.

Stayner’s luck however had run out. In a matter of days, a Park employee notified investigators that he had seen a blue and white International Scout parked outside Joie’s home the evening she was killed. Tyre prints were recovered near the scene and a BOLO soon located a vehicle matching the description of the suspect car, parked at the side of the California 140. They descended a nearby slope and came across Stayner, sunbathing naked, smoking a joint on the riverbank. He was arrested on suspicion of the murder of Joie Armstrong. When he was taken into custody at Sacramento, he was quickly identified as 38-year-old Cedar Lodge employee Cary Stayner, and then he dropped the bombshell that he also killed Carole and Juli Sund, and Silvina Pelosso.

Digging into his past, investigators found that he had no criminal record, however some years earlier in 1990 had been living with a paternal uncle, who had been found dead from gunshot wounds on the stairs of his home. Stayner had given an alibi for his whereabouts during that investigation, that he had been at work at the time of his Uncle’s murder, but claimed to have seen a vagrant lurking around in the days leading up to his death. The vagrant was never found, but Stayner was never considered as a suspect in the crime; when later questioned following his arrest in 1999, he once again denied involvement however at some point he made a claim that his uncle (various sources name him as Jesse or Jerry Stayner) molested him at age 11. In August 1999, at his trial, and with the aid of his immediate confession, despite pleading not guilty – he was attempting a plea of insanity due to childhood trauma relating to his brother – Stayner was found guilty of four counts of murder and sentenced to be executed in the Prison’s gas chamber facility.

Stayner has been incarcerated on San Quentin’s Death Row for 18 years. Following rejected appeals to have his sentence commuted to life without parole, it was declared in the State of California that the death penalty was unconstitutional on the basis of a “Use it or Lose it” scenario; as executions were rarely carried it, it was argued that they should be repealed as a legitimate sentence. Following over ten years of discussions and efforts to reach a suitable agreement regarding the future of the death penalty, in November 2016 a ballot was held between several Propositions put forward by various teams.

Proposition 66, which argued for refining the death penalty appeals process to allow a maximum of five years for the appeals process of such convicted prisoners – a period confirmed as workable following the appeals process ensuing from the convictions of the DC Sniper and the Oklahoma bombers, which whilst federal rather than state appeals, were still wrapped up successfully during the proposed five year time-frame, as well as other refinements which would “mend it, not end it” as far as the death penalty question is concerned, was successfully balloted and implemented in November but an immediate stay was filed with Supreme Court. As of February, 2017 a further investigation into the legality and implementation of Proposition 66 has been ordered to be finalised by April of this year.

In a bizarre twist, one of the main Petitioners against the implementation of Proposition 66 is former El Dorado county supervisor Ron Briggs who argues that the Proposition is unconstitutional, stating “Proposition 66 violates the constitution by keeping the [state] Supreme Court and the appeals court out of the system.” Ron Briggs’ father John was a main proponent in the successful 1978 Proposition 7, which successfully increased the parameters of the issuing of the death sentence in California. John Briggs was also behind the Proposition 6 bid, which failed ballot, commonly known as the “Briggs initiative” which would have to all intents and purposes, if successful, removed the rights of gays, regarding public service, teaching positions and so forth. Despite his upcoming Presidential election bid, Ronald Reagan threw his weight very publicly behind opposition to Proposition 6, insisting homosexuality could not be caught like measles, nor could it be taught by gay teachers as scientific studies showed homosexuality was apparent from a very early age and as such was outside of the “teaching influence” of gay educators. Briggs rebuffed by blaming opponents of Proposition 6 for the later AIDS epidemic.

Please see Part 2 here:  http://www.historynaked.com/yosemite-killer-abducted-boy-part-two/