- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 10, 2002

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) A jury decided yesterday that Cary Stayner should die for killing three Yosemite National Park tourists in 1999, rejecting defense pleas to spare him because of mental illness and his traumatic childhood.
Jurors took just six hours to return their recommendation. The judge still has the option of sentencing 41-year-old Stayner to life in prison.
The killings terrorized communities along the rugged Sierra Nevada in 1999 and went unsolved for more than five months. In that time, Stayner struck again, beheading a park naturalist; he was sentenced to life for that crime.
Carole Sund, 42, her daughter, Juli, 15, and their Argentine friend, Silvina Pelosso, 16, vanished on a trip to Yosemite in February 1999. Mrs. Sund, who once honeymooned at the park, took the girls there as a treat before Silvina returned home.
The night of Feb. 15, Stayner noticed the three through an open curtain in a room at the Cedar Lodge, where he worked as a handyman. The mother was reading a book, the girls were watching a videotape and, according to his confession, Stayner saw "easy prey" to fulfill a longtime sexual fantasy.
Stayner's defense conceded that prosecutors had the right man, but they said he didn't deserve to die because he was in the throes of a major mental illness caused by a misshapen head, his childhood and bad genes. They said he heard voices in his head.
Stayner never testified, but the prosecution relied on his own words as its strongest evidence, using his lengthy tape-recorded confession each step of the way to show he was cunning, methodical and went to great lengths to cover his tracks.
Stayner blocked his ears as the tape was played, as if he couldn't bear to listen to his own voice calmly describing the violent acts.
The killings puzzled law enforcement for months.
The FBI mistakenly said it had the culprits a group of methamphetamine users rounded up on unrelated charges behind bars. A grand jury investigation was under way when Stayner killed nature guide Joie Armstrong, 26, near her cabin in the park.
This time he was careless, leaving tire tracks and footprints behind. He hitched a ride home with a park ranger after his truck broke down near the crime scene.
Stayner left the lodge the next day after selling his TV and closing out bank accounts. He headed to a nudist resort in Sacramento County, where a resident tipped authorities the next morning that Stayner was camping there.
He was taken into custody on July 24, 1999, and confessed to all four killings. He was sentenced to life for killing Miss Armstrong.


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