Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Lost Boy


Parnell went to trial twice in 1981.

In June, he and Randall were brought to court to face the charges surrounding the abduction of Timmy White. The prosecution presented an especially strong case against Parnell, bringing Timmy, his family, and Steven to the witness stand. Steven told the jurors that his motivation for rescuing Timmy was that he didnt want what had happened to him to happen to Timmy.

The prosecution also brought to light the fact that Parnell had previously served jail time in the 1950s after he had been convicted of impersonating a policeman to abduct and sexually assault a young boy.

Parnell's defense countered with the tale that Parnell had been forced into abducting Timmy by another man, a drug-dealing kidnapper named Hank.

The jury didn't buy it. Parnell was convicted and sent to jail to await the start of the December trial for his crimes against Steven.

Steven Stayner testifies
Steven Stayner testifies
At the second trial, Steven rescinded his earlier claim of not being sexually molested by Parnell and spent almost an entire day of testimony recounting the various abuses Parnell had committed. Throughout his testimony, Steven displayed remarkable calmness as he sat just a few feet away from Parnell. He later explained to Newsweek that during his testimony, as well as right after being reunited with his family, "[for] seven years I [had] built a wall around myself. If I [started to cry] I might not be able to stop."

The prosecution then brought other witnesses to the stand that recounted the various locations and neighborhoods where the "father and son" had lived during the seven years that Steven was "Dennis."

The defense did not have much to go on in the face of the prosecution's strong case, but did question whether the statute of limitations for Steven's kidnapping had run out, and wondered when or if Steven stopped being a kidnap victim and crossed into being a willing participant. Why, they asked, didnt he escape from Parnell earlier than 1980, especially since Steven had often been alone for long periods.

The jury deliberated for about 12 hours before finding Parnell guilty. The jury reportedly had quickly come to a decision about Parnell but had to deliberate longer to decide what to convict Murphy of, who had been tried along with Parnell for Steven's abduction. They were unsure if Murphy had completely understood the full scope of what Parnell had in mind on the day of Stevens kidnapping. They eventually found Murphy guilty of lesser charges.

With the trials over, Steven and Timmy could return to their homes and begin to live much more normal lives.

It may not have occurred to anyone that Parnell, too, would eventually return to what he considered his "normal" life and his twisted definition of family.

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