Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Lost Boy

Coming Home

The news traveled quickly and soon the Stayner house was flooded with hundreds of people who wanted to see if the news was true, to get more details, and to await Steven's homecoming on March 2.

The media soon inundated Merced and the Stayner home. Kay told reporters that she had always "expected" Steven to return at some point.

At Steven's first press conference after returning home (which Del reported was a mixture of jubilance and awkwardness), Steven was nervous and soft-spoken and stated that Parnell had treated him well and denied any sexual abuse. He said that while he felt sorry for Parnell (who was now in jail awaiting arraignment), he didn't ever want to see him again.

Upon his return home, little Timmy White said that he'd enjoyed his short time with Steven: the older boy had frequently played with him, watched him when Parnell was gone, and read comic books to him.

Steven Stayner with Timmy White
Steven Stayner with Timmy White
The news of Timmy's return, and Steven's courageous act and homecoming, ignited the local and national media and articles appeared in every major newspaper. Steven's first days back with his real family were marked by waves of incoming letters from all over including a poignant congratulatory card signed by many students of the Mendocino high school hed been recently attending, who had known him only as Dennis Parnell.

Steven's homecoming would not be without problems, however, as he had trouble transitioning from Parnell's lack of supervision and readily accessible drugs and cigarettes to the stricter Stayner household. A lawyer who knew Steven during this period told The Merced Sun-Star of Stevens acting out and living dangerously, but described Steven at heart as a nice young man.

Steven later described these same days to Newsweek: "I returned almost a grown man, and yet my parents saw me ... as their seven-year-old. [The family is] all emotionally strained."

And there were more tough times to come.

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