What happened to the Stayner Family? Horror stories are explained as Hulu's Captive Audience set to explore the case

All three episodes of Captive Audience: A Real American Horror will be released on Hulu on April 21, 2022. (Image via IMDb)
All three episodes of Captive Audience: A Real American Horror will be released on Hulu on April 21, 2022. (Image via IMDb)

Life isn't a story, and if it were, the Stayner family's journey would be far too unbelievable for fiction. The family suffered the kidnapping of their 7-year-old son, Steven. After a long period of seven years, Steven not only miraculously managed to break free and return to his family but also saved another life in the process.

However, Steven's narrative does not have a happy ending, and problems for his family have only gotten worse. Cary Stayner, Steven's older brother, went on to become a notorious serial killer, tarnishing the family name.

Captive Audience: A Real American Horror Case, a new true-crime miniseries on Hulu, will delve deep into the two brothers' story later this week. Directed by Jessica Dimmock and executive produced by Joe Russo and Anthony Russo, all three episodes of the show will be released on Hulu on April 21, 2022.


What tragedy befell the Stayner Family?

Steven Stayner is a name that will be familiar to everyone who grew up watching television in the 1980s.

When Steven was kidnapped at the age of seven in 1972, the California youngster became a national hero when, seven years later, he not only fled his long-time abuser but also released 5-year-old Timmy White, who was held captive alongside him.

Steven's brave act catapulted him into the public eye. He and Timmy gave press interviews, testified at their kidnapper's trial, and were the subject of the hit 1989 TV movie I Know My First Name Is Steven.

But while Steven was basking in his newfound reputation and attempting to overcome the pain he experienced as a child, his older brother, Cary Stayner, was quietly turning sour in the background. In the new Hulu docuseries, one of the Stayner sisters reveals,

"A lot of attention went to Steven – we all got a little jealous. Cary, my older brother, was off."

Something inside Cary cracked ten years after Steven died in a motorbike accident at the age of 24. He brutally murdered three tourists and a naturalist in Yosemite National Park between February and July 1999: Carole Sund, who was 42, Juli Sund, who was 15, Silvina Pelosso, who was 16, and Joie Ruth Armstrong, who was 26.

The bodies of two of the women were discovered burnt in the trunk of their scorched automobile, one had her throat slit, and the final victim had been decapitated. Cary was arrested the following year and was convicted of all four women's murders and put to death in the trials that followed. He is still on death row in San Quentin State Prison at the age of 60.

Captive Audience will feature interviews with family members, case specialists, and the actor who got an Emmy nomination for portraying Steven on TV to investigate the Stayner brothers' conflicting legacies, Steven, who rescued an innocent life, and Cary, who took four innocent lives nearly 20 years later.

Don't forget to catch all three episodes of Captive Audience: A Real American Horror, which will be released on Hulu on April 21, 2022.

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Edited by Khushi Singh