A 14-year-old California boy who had been kidnaped seven years ago was found yesterday in good condition on a street in a town 200 miles from his home in what his delighted mother called a "phenomenal" discovery.
With him was a five-year-old Ukiah boy who had been kidnaped Feb. 14.
Authorities arrested Kenneth Eugene Parnell, 48, at the hotel in Ukiah where he worked and booked him for investigation in the kidnaping of the younger boy, Timothy Lee White.
The older boy, Steven Stayner, of Merced, Calif., said he had bought the youngster to Ukiah from a cabin near the coast where they had been living with Parnell because "I didn't like what was happening."
"It happened to me," said Steven, "and I didn't want to see it happen to anybody else."
As Steven's parents, who said they had never given up hope, prepared to welcome him last night, he began to relate a story of being abducted from his hometown Dec. 4, 1972, by a man who persuaded him that his parents didn't want him any more and could not affort to keep him.
During the seven years the youth was missing he and Parnell, of Manchester, Calif., reportedly moved around the state, living at times in Santa Rosa, Yosemite Park and Ukiah.
Although Steven apparently had been told that a court had awarded him to Parnell, whom he called "Dad", he made occasional efforts to leave, authorities said.
At times Steven "started to go back, but he didn't know what to do" to make his way home, one police said. Authorities also said that Stevenson was well treated. He was graduated from junior high school and played football on his school team.
"We'll be so thankful to God that we have him back home and that somebody took care of him for past seven years," Steven's mother said last night. "This is really so phenomenal, for a child to be gone seven years and to be found alive.
"We expected him to come back," she told the Associated Press. "We had hope, faith and kept busy."
One of five children of Delbert Strayner, a cannery worker, and his wife, Kay, Steven was abducted while walking home from school after Parnell allegedly approached him and asked if he wanted to "contribute to a charity."
Steven allegeldly entered Parnell's car to consult his mother about the matter, but he never reached his home.
Over the years, police in Merced pursued many leads to no avail. Parnell's name never came up in their investigations.
"I never stopped looking, every time I saw a crowd on TV or a picture of a lot of people in a magazine," said Steven's father. "I always looked very closely in hopes of spotting Steven."
But he never saw his son, who was described tonight as a healthy, intelligent, strapping young man, well groomed and with a fresh haircut.
Then on Valentine's Day Timmy White, last seen walking from school to his babysitter's house, vanished from the streets of Ukiah, in the words of one police officer, "like somebody pushed a button."
That event, which spurred the 22-member Ukiah police force to 16- and 18-hour workdays, apparently led to a turning point in the life of Steven Stayner.
When Timmy came to Parnell's home, he kept crying, and Steven "got shook up," his uncle, Jerry Stayner told United Press International. Although Steven had once believed his parents wanted him with Parnell, the uncle said, he decided "something was wrong."
Saturday night the two boys hitch-hiked from the coast into Ukiah. Steven told Timmy to go to the police station and identify himself.
The five-year-old reached the station, looked into a window, became frightened and ran off, but not before he was spotted by officer Bob Warner, who recognized him although his fair hair had been cut and dyed brown.
With the officer in pursuit, Timmy ran to Steven, who was some distance away. Both youths were taken to the station, and their identities discovered. a
After Parnell's arrest, authorities declined to discuss possible motives. He was held on $7,000 bail and a hearing was expected Monday or Tuesday.
Parnell, a native of Amarillo, Tex., had been living in the region around Ukiah for about five years, according to Ukiah Police Chief Dave Johnson. He and Steven moved to Manchester about six or eight months ago from Comptche, 30 miles to the north. Owners of an abandoned ranch in the hills outside Manchester allowed him and his "son" to live rent-free in a small cabin there in exchange for watching the property.
"He said he wanted a place where he could get his boy away from gangs and dope" and other "bad influences," he said had existed at Steven's previous school, the ranch owner's wife said of Parnell.
While Steven enrolled at Point Arena High School under a false name, Parnell worked at the night desk of Ukiah's Palace Hotel. His co-workers called him a "model employe" and said he was being trained for security work.
In Merced, while awaiting Steven's return, his father told a reporter that "we've kept all his Christmas and bithday presents over all the time he's been gone, just waiting for him to get home.
"Now I wish I had bought him more."