Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Lost Boy

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Steven didnt know what to make of the addition of his new little brother, although he later told reporters that he made the decision to get Timmy White back to his family "immediately after (Parnell) brought him home." This was an enormous risk, as Steven knew that Parnell would be furious. Additionally, Steven was convinced that after saving Timmy he shouldnt return to Parnell, but where else could a 14-year-old boy go?

In early 1980, Parnell was working the night shift in a hotel in Ukiah. Less than a month after Timmy's abduction, Steven took advantage of Parnells absences and took the toddler out late at night, hoping to hitch a ride into Ukiah.

After a couple of failures, Steven struck gold on the night of March 1, as he and Timmy caught a ride from a passing truck.

Not wanting to go too near the hotel where Parnell was working, Steven asked to be dropped off in a residential area. At first, Timmy tried unsuccessfully to find his house, but after hours of wandering, Steven spotted a police station. He stopped on a nearby street corner and told Timmy to go into the station and tell the police who he was. Steven promised Timmy that he would be watching until the boy was safely inside.

A Ukiah policeman working the late shift that night looked up to see a small boy standing just outside the front doors of the station. Finding that unusual for that time of night, he approached the boy, who became frightened and ran away. Stepping out into the night, the policeman heard the sound of a child crying and then saw the small boy running towards a teenage boy waiting at a street corner.

The policeman went to investigate. After a short conversation, he brought both back to the station, where it was quickly determined that the toddler was the recently missing Timmy White, although the older boy was less forthcoming about his own identity.

Eventually "Dennis" told the police that he was actually Steven Stayner, and that he had been missing for about seven years.

The police were stunned. A kidnapped child showing up so long after their abduction, in apparently good health, was almost unheard of.

And due to the length of time he had been with Parnell, it took several policemen some time to convince Steven that Parnell's story about his parents giving him up and not wanting him was a lie. Steven finally agreed to let the police call his family in Merced.

And so it was the middle of the night that Kay and Del got the phone call they had long been praying for.

At first the Stayner family couldnt grasp what was happening: Steven was coming home!

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