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Guilty Verdicts In Yosemite Slayings

More than three years after Francis Carrington's daughter, granddaughter and their friend vanished on a visit to Yosemite National Park, he finally heard the words he has waited for: guilty, guilty, guilty.

Carrington wiped tears from his eyes as former motel handyman Cary Stayner was convicted Monday of murdering Carole Sund, 42, her daughter, Juli, 15, and Silvina Pelosso, 16.

"It seems like an awful long time, but today really helped," Carrington said outside of Santa Clara County Superior Court.

His wife, Carole Carrington, said she felt relieved.

"It's a vindication of our feeling that this is definitely a death penalty case and that it was a horrendous crime and that we get justice for our girls," she said.

After more than five weeks of evidence it took only about five hours for a jury to find Stayner guilty of three counts of first-degree murder and a kidnapping count. He could face the death penalty because there were multiple murders and the crimes were committed during other felonies, including burglary and attempted rape.

Beginning Thursday Stayner's lawyers will mount an insanity defense to try to spare his life. In delivering its verdict, the jury rejected weeks of evidence that Stayner was mentally ill and could not form the intent required for first-degree murder.

The defense will now try to prove a different standard — that he didn't know he was killing or didn't know it was wrong.

Stayner, 41, who is serving life in prison without chance of parole for murdering park nature guide Joie Armstrong, showed little emotion as the verdict was read.

Stayner confessed to killing the trio while they were staying at the rustic motel where he worked as a handyman outside Yosemite National Park. The disappearance of the three in February 1999 received worldwide attention.

The crime was unsolved for nearly six months until Stayner struck again, snatching Armstrong and beheading her near her cabin in the park in July 1999.

Prosecutor George Williamson said the mental illness defense was an attempt to "blow smoke" and distract jurors from overwhelming evidence.

Stayner told FBI interrogators that he had fantasized for months about sexually assaulting young girls and then killing them. On the night of Feb. 15, 1999, he said he saw "easy prey" through the open blinds of Room 509 at Cedar Lodge.

With his killing "kit" that included duct tape, rope, a knife and a gun, Stayner pretended to check for a leak. He then pulled his gun, telling the three he was desperate and needed their car.

Stayner described how he "nonchalantly" strangled Carole Sund while the girls were bound and gagged in the bathroom. He dumped her body in their rental car trunk and later strangled Pelosso.

He repeatedly tried to rape Juli throughout the night, but was hindered by impotence.

Early the next morning, he drove her to Lake Don Pedro, a reservoir in the Sierra foothills, where he sexually assaulted her again. He said he loved her and then slashed her throat and covered her body in brush.

Stayner ditched the rental car off a rural highway and later returned and torched it.

He told investigators that he wasn't upset about what he had done, and was only concerned about getting to work in time.

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