Death Penalty Sought in Yosemite Slayings

Prosecutors said today they will seek the death penalty against Cary Stayner if he is convicted of killing three Yosemite National Park tourists.

Stayner, already serving a life sentence in the killing of a park naturalist, pleaded innocent to three counts of murder and a number of additional charges in the deaths of the tourists.

Stayner, 39, was arraigned today in Mariposa Superior Court, and prosecutor George Williamson announced he will seek the death penalty in the February 1999 killings of Carole Sund, 42, her daughter Juli, 15, and family friend Silvina Pelosso, 16, of Argentina.

Stayner was sentenced to life in prison last year after confessing to murdering Joie Armstrong, 26, a woman who led children on nature tours in the park. Federal prosecutors dropped their bid for execution as part of a plea bargain.

Alleged Confession on Tape

The announcement to seek the death penalty in the slaying of the tourists was anticipated after Mariposa District Attorney Christine Johnson brought in Williamson, a prosecutor who specializes in capital punishment cases.

Stayner admitted the killings in a six-hour taped interview with FBI agents in July 1999, shortly after Armstrong's headless body was found in a creek near her cabin in the park. An excerpt of the tape was played at a preliminary hearing last month in which Stayner described how he preyed on the tourists and methodically killed them one by one.

He said he had fantasized of killing for months, and said he turned the dream to reality when he saw "easy prey" through a window at the Cedar Lodge, where he worked as a handyman just outside the park.

Trial was set for Feb. 25, 2002.