The story of the kidnapping of Steven Stayner and Timmy White.  It’s hard to believe

The story of the kidnapping of Steven Stayner and Timmy White. It’s hard to believe

  • Steven Stayner was kidnapped when he was just a few years old. Thanks to his great courage, he managed to save another boy from a similar nightmare that he found himself
  • Stayner and five-year-old Timmy White were kidnapped by a Levite who, after being released from prison, was given a chance by the US government to start a new life.
  • The boys escaped from the hell the kidnapper had prepared for them. Unfortunately, their troubles are not over
  • Both tried to live a normal life but failed. In addition, it turned out that a serial killer has appeared in the immediate family of Stayner
  • The story of Stayner and White is told in the series “With Bated Breath”, which can be viewed on the Disney + platform.
  • You can find more similar articles on the Onet home page

One day in December 1972, Steven Stayner’s life changed forever. While the 7-year-old boy was walking home in Merced, California, he was pulled over by a stranger in his car. The man promised to give Steven a ride home – in fact, he kidnapped him and took him to Kenneth Parnell’s house. Parnell convinced the abductor, the naive and simple-minded Ervin Murphy, that he wanted to raise the boy in a religious spirit. In fact, Parnell was a Levite who had previously been convicted of child abuse.

Image: Disney

Steven Stayner before the kidnapping

The kidnapping of Steven Stayner and Timmy White

After seven years in prison, Kenneth Parnell has been given a new identity and a chance to start over from his old life. He used it in a terrible way – he planned Steven’s kidnapping and started using the boy from the first day after the kidnapping. Stayner cried and begged to be brought home, but Parnell told the child that his parents had abandoned him because he had many brothers and sisters (Steven had four brothers). The minor had no other choice and succumbed to the document prepared for him by the criminal. Parnell enrolled Steven in school and came up with a new name for the child. He allowed Steve to do things that boys in normal families were not allowed to do: drink alcohol and roam the neighborhood at night.

Kenneth Parnell and Steven Stayner (dated photo)

Photo: Bettmann/Getty Images

Kenneth Parnell and Steven Stayner (dated photo)

Steven was growing, and Parnell decided he needed another, younger prisoner. He tried to kidnap the children several times, but still something did not work – after a while it turned out that Steven had prevented the next kidnapping, because he did not want such a dream to happen to the children of the next few years. In the end, however, the bully succeeded.

In mid-February 1980, Parnell kidnapped five-year-old Timmy White with the help of another young accomplice whom Stayner met. The little boy was very scared. Stayner decided it was time to take action. He later told the police:

A month later, when Parnell returned from work, he found the house empty. It turns out that Stayner took advantage of that and ran off with Timmy. For the first part of the trip, the older one carried the younger one on a piggyback. Later, the boys hit; finally they arrived in the town of Ukia, where Timmy came from. The five-year-old could not give the address of the family’s home, so Stayner decided to go to the police and Timmy to go to the station himself and identify himself. Steven wanted to leave at that time. The boy, however, got scared and ran to the older guardian – the officers watched the whole situation from the window and managed to stop Stayner and White. They were shocked to know who they were talking to.

Difficulty returning home

Stayner and White were returned to their families. When Timmy White grew up, he became a police officer and joined the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. He married and had two children. He managed to meet the young man who caused his abduction – and told him that he forgave him. White died at just 35 years old; he suffered from a pulmonary embolism.

Stayner did not have a long happy life either. He had difficulty returning to a normal family life. His parents treated him like a 7-year-old child who had disappeared from their eyes, and Steven used to do whatever he liked and the house rules annoyed him. Eventually, due to Steven’s work with his family, the young man began to deal with the trauma. But he never spoke about what happened in the Parnell house for many years.

Stayner, like White, married and had two children. He died in a motorcycle accident when he was 24 years old. In the last weeks of his life, he converted and joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. At Stayner’s funeral, Timmy, then 14 years old, was among the pallbearers for Steven.

After 1980, White and Stayner participated in many lectures, which were organized, among others, by. for children and young people. They explained how avoid kidnapping and what you should consider.

What about Parnell? After the boys escaped in 1980, he was sentenced to seven years in prison – he got out early, after five years. In 2003, he began to make another child a nightmare. He tried to buy a four-year-old child for $500; Diane Stevens, who made this offer to him, went to the police and together with the police they organized an ambush against Parnell. Thanks to Stevens’ answers, police officers found evidence to put Parnell in prison for the rest of his life. The student died in prison. He was 76 years old.

But it doesn’t stop there.

A story that is watched “with bated breath”

Every nightmare and every trauma does not end with the person they touch. The tragedy that befell Steven Stayner changed his entire family. This is what the three-episode series “With bated breath”, which can be viewed on the platform Disney + (previously available on Hulu), tells about it. Director Jessica Dimmock tells the events of the turn of the 70s and 80s from the perspective of the Stayner family. Listen to the story of Steven’s mother, her son and daughter. It turns out that trauma affects generations.

Parents say hello to Steven Stayner (1980)

Image: Disney

Parents say hello to Steven Stayner (1980)

Steven’s mother could not forgive herself for being late to pick up the boy from school on the day of the disaster, so she decided to return home alone. When Stayner returned to his family, his loved ones could not recognize him. After his death, former classmates recalled that Steven always walked with his head bent over, as if he was still in pain.

The actors who play the roles of Steven and his brother, Cary, also appear in the episode “With Bated Breath”. What happened to Cary is another part of the Stayners’ nightmare.

His brother Steven would wait for his five minutes

In 1999, exactly 10 years after Steven Stayner’s death, four women were murdered near Yosemite National Park. Cary had fantasized about women as a young man – and there were fantasies that were very cruel and strange. After Steven’s brother confessed to the crime, his lawyers tried to prove that context played an important role in his life: Cary should have been ashamed. She reportedly pulled out her hair by force, going through a nervous breakdown and not receiving enough help. The court did not accept this interpretation and sentenced Cary to death – he is awaiting execution in prison.

Cary Stayner.  Photo taken after being stopped by the police

Image: Disney

Cary Stayner. Photo taken after being stopped by the police

The creators of the show also seem to not believe the interpretation of the defenders, and instead claim that Cary was looking for his “five minutes” because he felt rejected by the whole family’s attitude towards Steve. What is the truth? What is hidden? The director of “With Bated Breath” cannot draw the whole picture, because not everyone wants to show his part.

This tension between truth and concealment, conversation and silence, blame and forgiveness is at the center of the episode. It is best summed up by the words of Kay Stayner, Cary and Steven’s mother: “I try to remember, but I lose my bearings, I get lost. I live and remember it all.”

Sources:, Disney +