Two brothers that lived in Northern California lived unfathomably tragic lives. One was kidnapped and lived with his abusive capturer for nearly 10 years as a young child. The other brought chaos to Yosemite in the 1990’s with a brutal killing spree. The lives of these brothers are the subject of Hulu’s new documentary Captive Audience.
Steven and Cary Stayner had seemingly normal childhoods in Merced when Steven was tragically abducted by Kenneth Parnell and taken to NorCal’s coastal town of Comptche in 1972 at the age of 7. For nearly 10 years, Steven lived with Parnell under the alias of Dennis Parnell, until he escaped with another young abductee also living with Parnell. Steven’s story became international news, with 40 million people watching the dramatization of the ordeal on NBC’s two-part 1989 TV movie I Know My First Name is Steven.
Meanwhile, Cary was dealing with his own demons. He had admittedly dreamed of hurting women growing up, and his brother’s newfound fame had only exacerbated his ongoing mental issues. Between February and July 1999, Cary committed four brutal murders of hikers in Yosemite National Park while he was working at nearby Cedar Lodge motel. The body’s had been decapitated, sexually assaulted and burned. To mock the investigators working on the case, Cary even sent a note to officials with the location of a body and the words “We had fun with this one.”
The true crime docuseries is set to premiere on Hulu on April 21. Here’s a description from Hulu:
In 1972, 7-year-old Steven Stayner mysteriously vanished on his way home from school. Nearly a decade later, his dramatic return to his family sparked ’80s-era “stranger danger” warnings, legal reforms, and one iconic Made-For-TV-Movie in which the family’s ordeal was transformed into a prime-time miniseries watched by 70 million Americans. When the credits rolled and the movie ended, it closed one tragic chapter of the family’s life, but opened another. This limited documentary series explores the evolution of true crime storytelling through the lens of one family’s 50-year journey and two brothers; one a hero, the other a villain. It’s about how truth becomes story and story becomes truth – on TV, in the justice system, and in our minds.