http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/01/23/BAV2UJOJN.DTL Sex offender Kenneth Parnell dies in Vacaville Steve Rubenstein, Chronicle Staff Writer Wednesday, January 23, 2008 (01-22) 15:10 PST VACAVILLE -- Convicted sex offender Kenneth Parnell, known for the 1972 kidnapping and seven-year-long confinement of Steven Stayner, died Monday in the state prison hospital at Vacaville. Parnell, 76, died of natural causes, the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said. He had been on what the prison called hospice status. A three-time inmate, Parnell had most recently been imprisoned since 2004 after being convicted of attempting to buy a 4-year-old child in Berkeley. He had been sentenced to 25 years to life under the "three strikes" law. On Dec. 4, 1972, Parnell kidnapped 7-year-old Steven Stayner in Merced. He kept him from running away by showering him with gifts and telling him his parents could no longer afford him. The events that led to his arrest began when Parnell abducted another boy, 5-year-old Timmy White of Ukiah (Mendocino County), in February 1980. Steven, then 14, escaped with the boy two weeks later and hitchhiked 40 miles to the Ukiah police station, telling authorities that Parnell had molested him and that he didn't want Timmy to suffer the same abuse. Parnell, a former motel clerk who served three years in prison for molesting an 8-year-old Bakersfield boy in 1952, denied he had abused Steven. Parnell was convicted of kidnapping, sent to state prison and paroled in 1985. He was not charged with any sex crimes because under the law at that time, the additional charges would not have added any time to his sentence. Stayner later died in a motorcycle accident. He was the younger brother of Cary Stayner, the motel handyman who was sentenced to death for killing three tourists and a Yosemite park naturalist in 1999. Parnell returned to state prison in April 2004 for soliciting a felony in connection with the attempt to buy the 4-year-old boy. Berkeley police arrested him after a woman who made deliveries at his house said he had sought her help in procuring an African American boy, along with a birth certificate. "Kenneth Parnell's death brings to a close his long criminal history of violating young children," said Tim Wellman, the Alameda County deputy district attorney who prosecuted him in the 2004 case. His defense lawyer in that case, Deborah Levy, remembered Parnell as an "easy, agreeable client" who realized that his legal defense was difficult because his voice had been secretly recorded while he was attempting to buy the child. "It was a difficult case to defend, because you actually hear him asking about the kid," Levy said. In a 2003 jailhouse interview with The Chronicle, Parnell admitted that he had tried to buy the boy to experience the "love and respect" that a son has for a father. He said he had no intention of harming the boy. "Time is running out on me," said Parnell, who was 71 at the time. Parnell said he had hoped to raise a family by arranging to buy a boy and a girl. He said he sought the love of children because he had "not had any luck with women" and also said it was not wrong to buy a child, because "there's been other cultures that have been doing that." Parnell said he did not care if people did not like him. "I guess they have their reasons," he said.