Famous kidnapper offered care worker $500 to find him a child
BERKELEY, Calif. — Authorities arrested one of California’s most notorious kidnappers after receiving a tip from a home-care worker who said she had been offered $500 to find him a child, officials said.
Kenneth Parnell, 71, who was sent to prison for kidnapping Steven Stayner in the 1970s, told the home-care worker last week that he would pay her if she could obtain a 4-year-old boy for him, said Clint Ojala, an investigator with the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office.
“One day she was over at his house, and he just said, ‘I have 500 bucks and I’m willing to spend it on a kid,”‘ Ojala told the Los Angeles Times in an article published Sunday. “Later, he said the child had to be black and has to be 4 years old. It’s like this guy was ordering food.”
Parnell was arrested Friday night at his Berkeley home. He 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 health worker, whose name was not released, befriended Parnell while making regular medical visits to his apartment, Ojala said.
The 1972 kidnapping of Steven 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. When Parnell kidnapped another boy in 1980, Steven went to police, saying he didn’t want the younger boy to suffer the same abuse.
Parnell, who was convicted in 1980 of both kidnappings, served five years and one month in prison — less time than Steven was kept from his family.
Although Steven said Parnell had regularly abused him, sexual abuse charges against Parnell were dropped in 1981 when a state appeals court ruled the statute of limitations had expired.
Steven was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1989.
The home-care worker went to the Berkeley Police Department, where Parnell was registered as a serious sex offender, the Times reported. She agreed to wear a wire during subsequent visits and police taped her phone calls with Parnell, the newspaper said.
Authorities arrested Parnell after he gave the woman $100 for a birth certificate, which was fake, Ojala said. Police found toddler’s clothing and children’s videos in his apartment, he said.
Parnell allegedly told the woman he also would be interested in buying a young girl if the first deal worked out, Ojala said.
“It’s disgusting,” Ojala said. “We just thank God this lady got involved.”
Steven’s father said Saturday he wasn’t surprised to learn another child could have been put in harm’s way by the same man.
“That man should never have gotten out of prison in the first place,” Delbert Stayner told The Associated Press in an interview from his Winton home.
“He should’ve gotten life when he took Stevie all those years ago,” he said.
Last year, Steven’s older brother, Cary, was sentenced to death after being convicted of killing four women in Yosemite National Park.