Sister Tells of Stayner’s Troubled Childhood

From Associated Press

When she took the witness stand Thursday and was asked if she knew Yosemite killer Cary Stayner, his sister began to cry.

Of course Cynthia Sartell knew him; he was her older sibling.

But she said it wasn’t the brother she remembers.

“I don’t believe that it was my brother who committed such things,” Sartell said as the defense presented his three sisters in an effort to spare his life.


It was the first day in the 2 1/2-month trial that any members of Stayner’s immediate family have shown up.

Stayner, 41, faces the death penalty for the killings of Carole Sund, 42, her daughter, Juli, 15, and their Argentine friend Silvina Pelosso, 16, while they were staying at the motel where he worked as a handyman outside Yosemite National Park in February 1999. Jurors in August found him guilty of the murders.

Sartell testified about the toll that the 1972 kidnapping of younger brother Steven took on the family.

She said her father became obsessed with finding the youngster, who was held and sexually abused by a kidnapper for seven years.

The family sent out fliers, Sartell said, and headed off on distant road trips to talk to people who might have any information about the missing child.

“My dad was on a mission trying to find his son,” she said.

The family avoided watching the 10 p.m. news, and any mention of Steven on TV would make their father cry.

But the children in the family kept their feelings to themselves and didn’t discuss their emotions.

“We were kind of on our own,” Sartell said.

“We tried to keep quiet and not upset our parents.”

Much of the testimony that the defense has tried to introduce, such as the molestation of one of Stayner’s sisters by their father, has been barred because of objections by the prosecution.

Judge Thomas Hastings has said that the evidence is becoming repetitive, and he has ordered Stayner’s defense to tighten up testimony so the case can go to the jury early next week.