Did FBI Blunder in Yosemite Murder Case?

ByABC News

June 13, 2001 -- A taxi driver who picked up confessed murderer Cary Stayner near the site where two of his suspected victims were found testified the alleged serial killer was a bit strange during the two hours she had him in her car, but she didn't think much of it.

Jenny Horvath said she picked Stayner up the day after his first three alleged victims were last seen alive near Yosemite National Park in February 1999, but they had not yet been reported missing.

She testified in Mariposa, Calif., Superior Court on Tuesday that she told her husband about the "strange" two-hour drive with Stayner, but never called police after the women were reported missing.

Horvath said a statement from an FBI special agent that the investigation into the disappearance was focused on people already in custody on sexual abuse charges had made her less concerned than she might have been.

The testimony came in the second day of a hearing on whether there is enough evidence to put Stayner on trial for the murders of Carole Sund, 42, her 15-year-old daughter Juli, and Silvina Pelosso, 16, a family friend visiting from Argentina.

Stayner is already serving a life sentence after pleading guilty in federal court to the murder of Joie Armstrong, aYosemite park naturalist who he beheaded in March after the three tourists went missing.

Prosecutors say Stayner also confessed to killing the Sunds and Pelosso, and they reportedly planned to play tapes of that confession in court today.

Bigfoot Tales

Stayner paid Horvath $125 to drive him from the area where a month later authorities would find the bodies of Carole Sund and Pelosso in the trunk of Sund's burned rental car. Along the way he talked about several encounters he said he had with the mythical mountain monster known as Bigfoot.

The testimony provided at least one explanation for slain naturalist's mother. "It's something I've always thought about, why didn't she call the police to say I had a weird thing happen to me about that time," Leslie Armstrong said after the hearing.

Horvath testified that it was because she had heard a statement from FBI special agent that investigators believed that the culprit in the disappearances was already in custody and that Yosemite was safe.

Prosecutors and the FBI refused to talk about Horvath's testimony or any details of the Armstrong case.

Day two of the preliminary hearing was dramatic and emotional. When forensics experts talked about the "grotesque" condition of the victims, several people began to cry.

Stayner was among those who was visibly upset, repeatedly putting his face in his hands during two hours of testimony.

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