Yosemite killer Stayner found sane

Brian Melley The Associated Press
Tuesday September 17, 2002

SAN JOSE — Cary Stayner was sane when he murdered three Yosemite National Park tourists in 1999, a jury decided Monday in what means he could face the death penalty. 

The jury took less than four hours to reject the defense claim the former motel handyman was unable to understand what he was doing. 

Stayner stood for the verdict and showed no emotion as it was read. 

If he had been found insane, he would have received an automatic life sentence. The penalty phase of the trial, in which the jury will decide whether Stayner should be executed or sentenced to life in prison, begins Tuesday. 

The same jury convicted Stayner last month of murdering Carole Sund, 42, her daughter, Juli, 15, of Eureka, and their Argentine friend, Silvina Pelosso, 16, while they were staying at the lodge where he worked outside the park. 

Family members said they were relieved by the decision. 

“I always knew he was sane. Just seeing his face you can tell,” said Silvina’s father, Pepe Pelosso. “His confession speaks on its own. The cold way he expressed the killings, there is no doubt.” 

Stayner, 41, already is serving a life sentence for another 1999 slaying, that of park nature guide Joie Armstrong. He had pleaded guilty in that case in a deal that spared him from a possible death sentence. 

Defense attorney Marcia Morrissey had argued that a legacy of family mental disorders, a troubled childhood that included the highly publicized kidnapping of a brother, and voices that he said told him to “do the job” were evidence that Stayner was insane. 

Prosecutors said proof of Stayner’s sanity was in his confession to the FBI, in which he detailed his methodical efforts to cover his tracks. 

Stayner strangled Carole Sund and Pelosso and dumped their bodies in the trunk of a rental car that he later torched, burning the victims’ bodies beyond recognition. He sexually assaulted Juli Sund, slashed her throat and covered her naked body with brush on a hillside. 

The crime was unsolved for nearly six months until Stayner struck again, snatching Armstrong and beheading her near her cabin in the park.