The Cary Stayner murders took place in 1999 and came to be known as the Yosemite Park Murders, a series of killings which took place over a span of four months. The man responsible for the killings was 37-year-old Cary Stayner, a handyman at a motel near Yosemite State Park. There are quite a few creepy stories involving Yosemite Park, and Stayner's crimes certainly add to that list. While there are many stories about people murdered while hiking, and people who come up missing from national parks, the crimes committed by Stayner were brutal, and not ones locals will soon forget.
Cary Stayner was born and raised in Merced, CA, and his family life was rife with tragedy, which he eventually added to himself. Although it's a mystery as to why Stayner decided to take the lives of four people, he did claim that voices instructed him to do so. Continue reading to learn facts about Cary Stayner and the four people murdered by the Yosemite Killer.
Carole Sund, 42, her daughter Juli Sund, 15, of Eureka, CA, and Silvina Pelosso, 16, a friend visiting from Argentina, were vacationing together. The girls were staying at Cedar Lodge motel in El Portal, CA, near Yosemite National Park. The motel is where Cary Stayner worked as a handyman and on February 15, 1999, Stayner knocked on Sund's door. Carole Sund answered, and he told her he was there to repair a leak. Once inside the room, he pulled out a gun and said he was there to rob them. All three were bound and gagged. Carole Sund was taken into the bathroom by Stayner and immediately strangled to death and put in the trunk of her rental car. Stayner then set his sights on the two teen girls, both of whom he forced to take off their clothes and sexually assaulted. Pelosso was taken into the bathroom, where Stayner strangled her. He then carried her corpse out to the car, and she too was placed in the trunk. Juli Sund was put in the car, still alive—but not for long. Once Stayner had traveled a short distance, he cut Sund's throat, nearly decapitating her head. He abandoned her corpse near a lake. Stayner left Sund's rental car in the woods and call himself a taxi. He returned a few days later to set the car on fire.
Four months after Stayner killed three women and had seemingly gotten away with it, he decided to kill again. Twenty-six-year-old Joie Armstrong worked at Yosemite State Park as a nature guide. In July 1999, Stayner made his way into Armstrong's cabin. Armstrong struggled to get away from Stayner but was ultimately subdued. Stayner used a knife to decapitate Armstrong, later discarding her headless corpse in a stream.
Because Armstrong fought against Stayner, making noise in the process, he left the scene of the crime in a hurry and left several clues behind, including tire tracks from his vehicle as well as his footprints. A witness also was able to describe the vehicle parked outside of Armstrong's house, which was the same car that Stayner drove.
Several days after the Sund's and Pelosso's disappearance, a wallet, driver's license, and credit cards belonging to Sund were found, but there was no sign of the women or their Pontiac Grand Prix rental car. A month went by before a hiker discovered a vehicle in the mountains, which turned out to be the Grand Prix that Sund had rented. The car had been torched and, once police looked inside the trunk of the vehicle, they discovered the remains of Carole Sund and Pelosso. The same week the two bodies were found, an anonymous letter was sent to the FBI with a hand-drawn map. The disturbing note, later determined to have been identified as written by Stayner, read, "We had fun with this one." The map ultimately led police to the body of Juli Sund, who appeared to have died from her throat being cut.
After the police looked into the tire tracks left at Joie Ruth Armstrong's cabin and spoke to a witness who was able to give a vehicle description, police were able to make a match on the vehicle. The SUV belonged to Cary Stayner, the motel handyman who they interviewed before on several occasions, but never got the impression he was a suspect. Stayner was located in the Laguna Sol nudist colony, apparently one of his favorite hangouts. Police discovered him there, clothed and eating breakfast, and asked if they could talk to him. It wasn't long before police got a full confession from Stayner: he admitted to killing the four women. He was promptly arrested.