It was a Monday at the beginning of December in 1972, and seven-year-old Steven Stayner was on his way home from school in Mercer, California. A stranger stopped him and engaged him in conversation. The stranger’s associate arrived in a car, and Steven got in. That was the last Steven’s family would see of the young boy for eight years.
Steven Gregory Stayner was born on April 18, 1965, in Merced to Delbert and Kay Stayner. The Stayners already had one son and a daughter, and later another two sisters for Steven came along. Steven’s elder brother was Cary, and we’ll hear more of him later. That day when Steven was walking back from school, the man who had first stopped him was Ervin Murphy.
By all accounts, Murphy was a slow-witted fellow easily influenced and manipulated by others. One of those who took full advantage of this situation was Kenneth Parnell. He was the one driving the car that day in Merced, a white Buick, and the one who opened the door and invited Steven to get in. Parnell had apparently convinced Murphy that he was planning to become a minister.