SOLEDAD, Calif. — Kenneth Parnell is to be released from the Correctional Training Facility at Soledad today after serving five years in prison for kidnaping two children, one of whom he kept for seven years by passing him off to neighbors as his son.
Parnell, 53, abducted Steven Stayner, then 7, in Merced in 1972 and raised him as a son for seven years. The drifter was arrested when Steven went to Ukiah police in 1980 with Timmy White, a 5-year-old boy who had been kidnaped two weeks before.
Steven told investigators that he had been sexually abused by Parnell as he roamed from job to job across Northern California.
Parnell was sentenced to eight years and eight months in prison for the kidnapings, the maximum allowed by state law at the time. His actual term behind bars will be five years and one month--less time than Steven was away from his family.
Parnell is to be released from prison into the custody of two parole agents, who are to drive him to his new home in the San Francisco Bay Area. Department of Corrections spokesman Bob Gore refused to identify the county or community.
Conditions of Parnell's parole will bar him from leaving the county of his commitment. He is specifically forbidden to enter Merced County, where Steven was abducted in 1972, and Mendocino County, where Timmy White was kidnaped in 1980.
"He fears for his safety," said Ed Viet, acting chief of the Department of Corrections' parole division.
Mendocino County Sheriff Tim Shea has written to the parole board, calling Parnell an "ogre."
His feelings were shared by prosecutors in the case.
"There's no doubt in my mind he will do it again," said Joseph Allen, former Mendocino County district attorney. "The public need to be protected from him is far more significant than his need to be protected from them."
Allen said Parnell was not tried on charges of sexually abusing Steven because of the emotional stress it could have placed on the boy. The sentencing law at the time for sex crimes would not have added much time to Parnell's term, he said.
Initially, Parnell will be required to check in with the agents three to four times a week. The supervision will be increased or reduced depending on his adjustment, Gore said.
State officials said earlier that Parnell would be freed Tuesday, but a routine check of his confinement time concluded that "he had four more days' credit coming that he was legally entitled to."
Parnell will be on parole for three years, with a possible extension of one year, the maximum allowed by law, Gore said. He will be required to attend therapy sessions weekly, if not more frequently, depending on the program.