This week (March 16-23) in crime history – Lastania Abarta shot and killed her former lover in Los Angeles (March 16, 1881); Robert Blake was acquitted of murder (March 16, 2005); Judge Roy Bean died (March 16, 1903); Raymond Clark II pleaded guilty to the murder of a Yale University grad student (March 17, 2011); Yosemite Murders (March 18, 1999); Nazi General Friedrich Fromm was executed for helping plot failed assassination of Adolph Hitler (March 19, 1945); Tokyo subway was attacked with nerve gas by terrorists ( March 20, 1995); Alcatraz prison closed (March 21, 1963); Seven teachers were indicted for child abuse at the McMartin preschool (March 22, 1984)
Highlighted crime story of the week -
On March 18, 1999, the bodies of Carole Sund and Silvina Pelosso are found in a charred rental car in a remote wooded area of Long Barn, Califonia. The women, along with Sund’s daughter Juli, had been missing since February when they were last seen alive at the Cedar Lodge near Yosemite National Park. Juli Sund’s body was found thirty miles away a week after the car was found. Compounding the mystery, Carole Sund’s wallet had been found on a street in downtown Modesto, California, three days after they had disappeared.
Police initially focused their investigation on a group of methamphetamine users in Northern California, but this changed in July when Joie Ruth Armstrong, a 26-year-old Yosemite Park worker, was brutally killed near her cabin in the park. The discovery of her body led detectives to Cary Stayner, 37, who worked at the Cedar Lodge motel, where the Sunds were last seen. Stayner was tracked down and caught at a nudist colony in Northern California. He confessed to the murder of Armstrong and then surprised the detectives by admitting that he was also responsible for the murders of the Sunds and Pelosso.
Years earlier, Stayner had been on the other end of another high-profile crime. His younger brother, Steven, was abducted in Merced when Cary was eleven years old. Steven Stayner was held for more than seven years by a sexual abuser, Kenneth Parnell. Following his escape, a television movie, I Know My First Name is Steven, dramatized the incident. Steven Stayner died in a tragic motorcycle accident when he was twenty-four. Cary Stayner pleaded guilty to the Armstrong murder in 2001 and was convicted of the other three murders in 2002 and was sentenced to death. He is currently incarcerated at San Quentin Prison awaiting appeals of his conviction.
Check back every Monday for a new installment of “This Week in Crime History.”
Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for www.crimemagazine.com and is the author of six nonfiction books that includes Murder and Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California, 1849-1949. Visit Michael’s website www.michaelthomasbarry.com for more information. His book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link: