Hulu’s “Captive Audience”: Details About Steven Stayner True Story

The latest true crime docuseries on Hulu isn't just an intimate look into how one family's darkest moments became global news; it's also a deep dive into the lives of the people involved.

There are twisting true crime stories, and then there's Captive Audience, a true-crime thriller with a twist. It's a simple story, and it contains so many unexpected turns that you'll find yourself with your mouth hanging open and jaw on the floor.

Steven Stayner
Steven Stayner

Steven Stayner, who was seven years old, was kidnapped. This kidnapping serves as the starting point of a plot that would eventually entail Stayner's courageous return to his family, an Emmy-nominated miniseries, and a serial murderer, among other things.

If you're the sort of person who likes to know how things will finish before they begin, consider this your guide to the frightening subject matter of Captive Audience.

Who Was Steven Stayner?

Steven Stayner
Steven Stayner

Even if you're a die-hard true crime enthusiast, there's a good possibility you won't be prepared for this narrative. Stayner was the third of Delbert and Kay Stayner's five children, the youngest of whom was Steven.

Steven Stayner was walking home from school on December 4, 1972, when he was approached by a guy who recognized him. Ervin Edward Murphy had been persuaded to abduct Stayner by a co-worker at a Yosemite National Park lodge, Kenneth Parnell, who had heard about the kidnapping through a mutual friend. Stayner was just seven years old at the time.

According to those who knew him, people who knew Murphy regarded him as trustworthy and even simple-minded. Mr. Stayner stated that he believed Parnell's assertion that he desired to abduct the child Stayner to raise him in a more religious setting.

This was a scenario that would eventually be reported in the media. It was also a blatant misrepresentation of the facts. The first accusation was that Parnell kidnapped Stayner because he desired a child of his own but did not have one of his own.

Parnell was also the biological father of three children, a fact that was publicized before the entire extent of Parnell's misdeeds was revealed, which revealed another flaw in the account.

Indeed, Parnell had been arrested for kidnapping and raping another minor child in 1951, and he was already on the run. Parnell sexually assaulted Stayner on the first night of his abduction. Thirteen days after that, he began raping the seven-year-old youngster at his home.

Steven Stayner
Steven Stayner

Stayner was informed by Parnell that he now had legal custody of him and that his parents no longer desired him in their lives. Stayner did not escape as a result of these falsehoods at the time.

Parnell and Stayner often traveled around California during the following several years, never remaining long enough for Stayner to acquire any new acquaintances. It wasn't until Stayner reached adolescence that he was able to make his way out.

Timothy White was five years old when he was abducted by Parnell, with the assistance of one of Stayner's adolescent associates, in February 1980. Stayner waited until Parnell had departed one night before picking up White and hitchhiked to Ukiah, California, to return the youngster to his mother and father.

Stayner and White were reunited with their families due to Stayner's heroic actions. Even though this narrative is extremely tough to see, it represents just a third of the whole saga that the Captive Audience catches.

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What Is I Know? My First Name Is Steven?

Steven Stayner
Steven Stayner

Surprisingly, this is the tale section where things start to become crazy. Steven Stayner was shot to fame after rescuing Timmy White from certain death. Even though he had a difficult time, he eventually built a life for himself.

Stayner was married to Jody Edmondson, with whom he had two children. Stayner and Jody have two children together. Besides that, he was involved with child abduction organizations and gave interviews regarding his kidnapping.

In part because of his commitment to advocacy, Stayner agreed to be approached regarding the possibility of a television version of his case. I Know My First Name Is Steven was a two-part NBC miniseries that aired on May 22 and 23, 1980, and was written and directed by Steven Spielberg.

The series was extremely well-liked. Captive Audience compares the success of its ratings to those of the Super Bowl. It was also a critical and commercial triumph. The film I Know My First Name Is Steven was nominated for a Golden Globe and garnered four Emmy nominations.

Is Steven Stayner Alive Today?

Steven Stayner
Steven Stayner

Unfortunately, no. Stayner's motorbike was involved in a collision with a car while he was heading home from work, and the accident proved deadly. Stayner died on September 16, 1989, a day before the release of I Know What My First Name Is. War and Remembrance was the winner of the Emmy, and Steven was the loser. His wife and children will take care of their father's affairs.

Bradley Statler
Bradley Statler
As a Voracious Reader, Bradley Statler Appreciates the Outdoors and Being in Touch With the Natural World. A Voracious Traveler, He's Visited a Wide Variety of Far-flung Destinations. From Celebrities and Technology to Modern Relationships, He Discusses Them All on His Website, Michigansportszone.com. Bradley Statler Believes That His Life Experiences Have Improved His Empathy for Others and That His Art Reflects That.

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