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Sunday, December 04, 2011

I know my first name is Steven (1989)


Corin Nemec as Steven Stayner
This is a film that really stuck in my mind ever since I saw it on the BBC back in 1990. It is the true story of American 7-year-old Steven Stayner, who, on the afternoon of December 4th, 1972, was approached on his way home from school by a man named Ervin Murphy, sent by Kenneth Parnell. Murphy, described by those who knew him as a trusting, naïve and simple-minded man, had been fooled by convicted child rapist Parnell into helping him abduct a young boy.
Murphy passed out gospel tracts to boys walking home from school that day and, after spotting Stayner, claimed to be a church representative seeking donations. He managed to convince the young boy into letting Murphy drive him home, then a white Buick driven by Parnell pulled up and Steven willingly climbed into the car. Parnell then drove a confused Steven to his cabin instead. Parnell molested Steven for the first time early the following morning.
After telling Parnell he wanted to go home many times during his first week with the man, Parnell told Steven that he had been granted legal custody of the boy because his parents could not afford so many children and did not want him anymore.
Parnell began calling the boy Dennis Gregory Parnell, retaining Stayner's real middle name and his real birthdate when enrolling him in various schools over the next several years. Parnell passed himself off as Steven's father and the two moved frequently around California.
As Steven entered puberty, Parnell began looking for a younger child to kidnap. On February 14th, 1980, Parnell and a teenage friend of Steven's named Sean Poolman kidnapped five-year-old Timmy White in Ukiah, California. Motivated in part by the young boy's distress, Steven decided to escape with him, intending to return the boy to his parents and then escape himself. On March 1st, 1980, while Parnell was away at his night security job, Steven managed to leave with Timmy. Unable to locate the child's home address, he decided to have Timmy walk into the police department to ask for help. Before he could successfully escape, the police spotted the two boys and took them into custody. Steven immediately identified Timmy White and then revealed his own true identity and story.
By daybreak on March 2nd, 1980, Parnell had been arrested for the abduction of both boys. They were reunited with their families that day. In 1981, Parnell was tried and convicted of kidnapping Timmy and Steven in two separate trials. He was sentenced to seven years but was out on parole after serving five years.
The title for the film was taken from the first paragraph of Steven's written police statement. The incorrect spelling of his family name is also therein.

"My name is Steven Stainer. I am fourteen years of age. I don't know my true birthdate, but I use April 18, 1965. I know my first name is Steven, I'm pretty sure my last is Stainer, and if I have a middle name, I don't know it."

The film starred Cindy Pickett, John Ashton, Corin Nemec, Luke Edwards, Ray Walston and Scott Curtis

Death: On September 16th, 1989, Steven's motorcycle collided with a car that pulled into traffic from a side road. Steven received head injuries that proved fatal. He died at the Merced Community Medical Center shortly thereafter. Over 500 people attended his funeral, including then 14-year-old Timmy White, who helped carry Steven's coffin into the church.

Dark Cloud: Steven's older brother, Cary Stayner, was convicted in the late 90's for the murder and rape of Carole Sund, her daughter, Juli Sund (15 years old), their travel companion, Argentinian exchange student, Silvina Pelosso (16 years old) and Yosemite National Institute employee, Joie Armstrong. He remains in death row.

Parnell: Kenneth Parnell was later on convicted again for attempting at a similar crime. In 2008, he died in prison at the age of 76.

The last survivor: Timmy White passed away on April 1st, 2010, of a pulmonary embolism. He was 35.

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