In his spare time, Stayner enjoyed hanging out at the local swimming hole. One young woman, whose name is Sunshine Good Morning, often went skinnydipping with Stayner in the Merced River. Sunshine said Stayner seemed perfectly harmless. "I knew him for years. I hung out at the river with him. Sometimes alone. A lot of times alone," she said. Sunshine said she never felt uncomfortable around Stayner. "He never hit on me. And I know he never hit on any of my friends."
Early Signs of Inner Turmoil
Mike Marchese, who grew up with Stayner in Merced, Calif., about 50 miles from Yosemite, recalls Stayner as a shy quiet young man in high school. Marchese said he never noticed anything particularly unusual about his friend until one day in 1995. He said he and Stayner were working together at a glass factory in Merced when, Marchese said, Stayner seemed to snap. Marchese said Stayner told him he felt like "just jumping in the truck, driving through the shop and through the office wall and killing the boss and killing everybody in the office and then torching the place." Marchese said he told Stayner to go see a doctor.
Stayner followed his friend's advice and went to the hospital. When the hospital referred him to group counseling, however, Marchese said Stayner refused to attend.
But, as normal as Stayner seemed on the outside, in a phone call to 20/20, he said that he has been struggling with a mental illness his entire life.
"Probably all this happened," he says, because, "I suffered from an obsessive-compulsive disorder," he told 20/20.
Stayner refused to talk directly about the charges against him. But he spoke about his unhappy childhood, his own brother's kidnapping several years earlier, and his failed attempt to find the right medication for his apparent disorder.
Rowlands asked Stayner if he would have kept killing if he wasn't caught. Stayner said, "Definitely. I would have killed until I was either caught or killed myself," according to Rowlands.
There can be no simple answer why Stayner became an alleged serial killer, but there are clues. Rowlands said Stayner felt he was living a "tortured existence" and was "doing the best he could to fight these feelings."
Victims' Loved Ones Await Justice
Stayner could face death by lethal injection if he is found guilty and sane for the murders of Carole and Juli Sund and Silvina Pelosso. He is already serving a life sentence without parole for Armstrong's slaying.
In opening arguments in the state trial, Stayner's attorney admitted to jurors that Stayner killed the three women, but said his client's brain was so impaired that he did not know right from wrong.
Family members are attending the trial in San Jose, some 200 miles from Yosemite. Francis Carrington is angered by Stayner's defense strategy. He said he wonders how Stayner can say, "I want complete justice, I want insanity plea, I want to live. I want this, I want that. Well, what Carole and I wanted was for our children to grow up, live out their lives."
Last week, family members listened as prosecutors played Stayner's taped confession, which included graphic details of how the women died.
Jens Sund says he is trying to get past the anger, but it's difficult. He still has three children to raise — without Carole, his wife of 21 years, and his daughter, Juli, who would have turned 19 this year. Sund said, "I don't think any punishment would be too severe for Cary Stayner."
Stayner's trial is expected to last three months. Whatever the outcome, Stayner says he knows he will probably never see Yosemite again. "That's just the way it goes," he said. "I have good memories … I can just lay back … Close my eyes and I can be there again."
The Carole Sund/Carrington Memorial Reward Foundation In the wake of their daughter and granddaughter's deaths, Francis and Carole Carrington created the Carole Sund/Carrington Memorial Reward Foundation. The foundation helps families without economic means offer rewards for information in order to help law enforcement officials locate missing loved ones. For more information, visit the Web site at http://www.Carolesundfoundation.com.