Chowchilla bus kidnapping: Uncommon photographs from one of many largest abductions in U.S. historical past

Chowchilla trailer unearthed

AP Picture

A glance contained in the truck trailer the place 26 kidnapped faculty kids and their bus driver had been buried alive — and managed to flee. 

On July 15, 1976, 26 faculty kids and their bus driver from Chowchilla, California, had been kidnapped and buried alive on this tractor trailer. 

The kidnapped kids

Chowchilla kidnapping survivors

Jennifer Brown Hyde

The scary ordeal started when the kids, ages 5-14, had been on a college bus on their means residence from summer season faculty. 

Bus driver Ed Ray

School us driver Ed Ray

Jose Galvez/Los Angeles Instances

At round 4 p.m., on July 16, 1976, three masked males with weapons hijacked the Dairyland Elementary College bus pushed by Ed Ray. 

The deserted faculty bus

The abandoned school bus

Alameda County D.A.’s Workplace

The abductors then drove the bus right into a dry riverbed and hid it in tree brush.

One of many kidnapper’s vans

Chowchilla kidnappers white van

Alameda County D.A.’s Workplace

The shocked kids had been herded from the bus into two vans. They had been compelled to leap from the bus to the vans in order that they might not depart behind any footprints.

Scared college students

Kidnap survivior Jennfier Brown, age 9

CBS Information

Jennifer Brown Hyde, who was 9 on the time of the kidnapping, remembers what it felt like contained in the van. “And I felt like I used to be an animal going to the slaughterhouse.” 

Inside one of many vans

Inside Chowchilla kidnapping van

Alameda County D.A.’s Workplace

Contained in the vans, the abductors had constructed makeshift jail cells by putting in wooden paneling and portray the home windows. Nobody may see in or out. There was no air air flow, meals, water or bogs.

The rock quarry

Livermore Quarry

Alameda County D.A.’s Workplace

The abductors drove round for almost 12 hours as the kids suffered contained in the sweltering, pitch-black vans. Lastly, the vans stopped. The abductors had taken them to a rock quarry, 100 miles away from Chowchilla in Livermore, California. 

The underground gap


AP Picture

Bus driver Ed Ray and the kids had been taken out of the van, one after the other, and despatched down right into a gap. They quickly realized they had been inside an previous truck trailer and so they had been buried 12 ft underground.  

The underground gap

Inside Chowchilla kidnapping trailer

Alameda County D.A.’s Workplace

The abductors had made bogs within the wheel wells of the tractor trailer. 

The underground gap


Alameda County D.A.’s Workplace

Inside the opening, the kids discovered containers full of water for them to drink. In addition they discovered packing containers of cereal, peanut butter and loaves of bread. 

Air flow pipes

Chowchilla trailer vent pipe

Alameda County D.A.’s Workplace

 Two air flow pipes supplied air to the kids who had been trapped 12 ft underground. 

The trailer’s caving roof

Chowchilla kidnapping trailer roof

Alameda County D.A.’s Workplace

The kids tried to remain calm because the minutes and hours ticked by. After being within the gap for nearly 12 hours, situations began to deteriorate. The roof began to collapse, and so they had been working out of meals.

Footwear left behind

Children;s shows left behind after escape

Alameda County D.A.’s Workplace

Survivor Jennifer Brown Hyde mentioned, “It was only a determined scenario … We thought … if we will die, had been going to die attempting to get out of right here.”  Ed Ray and the youngsters determined they needed to attempt to to flee earlier than it was too late. 

A hero

Chowchilla hero Michael Marshall

Michael Marshall

Bus driver Ed Ray and Michael Marshall, 14, took turns pushing up on the heavy manhole cowl that was blocking the opening to the opening. As soon as they had been in a position to transfer that, Michael began the arduous process of digging to the highest.  

The survivors

Chowchilla kidnapping survivors

Alameda County D.A.’s Workplace

After many grueling hours, Michael Marshall dug himself to the highest. It had been 28 hours of terror. Ed Ray and the kids walked towards the rock quarry and had been greeted by shocked employees. Quickly police arrived  and photographs, like these, had been taken of every little one as proof.

The lengthy wait

Chowchilla students after escape

Alameda County D.A.’s Workplace

Police took faculty bus driver Ed Ray and the kids to the closest place that might maintain all of them — the Santa Rita Rehabilitation Heart, an area jail. Pictured at heart is Jennifer Brown.


The lengthy wait

Chowchilla students after escape

Alameda County D.A.’s Workplace

On the Santa Rita Rehabilitation Heart, the kids got apples and soda, and examined by medical doctors. 

Ed Ray

Chowchilla school bus driver Ed Ray

Alameda County D.A.’s Workplace

Ed Ray and the kids had been interviewed by police.

The lengthy wait

Chowchilla student after escape

Alameda County D.A.’s Workplace

The kids waited patiently, however all of them simply wished to get residence to their households. 

Survivors headed residence

Chowchilla students after escape

Alameda County D.A.’s Workplace

Lastly, roughly 4 hours after escaping, the kids boarded one more bus … 

Survivors headed residence

Chowchilla students after escape

Alameda County D.A.’s Workplace

… this time the bus was heading again residence to Chowchilla. 

Survivors headed residence

Chowchilla students after escape

Alameda County D.A.’s Workplace

The kids couldn’t wait to be reunited with their households.

Anxious dad and mom wait

Chowchilla parents await students return

AP Picture

Mother and father and households of the returning faculty kids waited anxiously for the arrival of their kids contained in the Chowchilla police station on July 17, 1976.


Larry Park and sister reunited with their dad

AP Picture

When 6-year-old survivor Larry Park arrived residence to his dad and mom he mentioned, “I lastly felt protected once more.” Park is pictured within the arms of his father. 

Digging for clues

Chowchilla investigators dig for clues

Alameda County D.A.’s Workplace

Instantly, police began to dig for clues on the scene of the crime. 

Unearthing the trailer

Chowchilla trailer being unearthed

CBS Information

Investigators unearthed the truck trailer that had been the kids’s underground tomb hoping they might discover clues that might cause them to the abductors. 

The media arrives

Media covering Chowchilla story

Alameda County D.A.’s Workplace

Media from everywhere in the world coated the story. 

Kidnappers arrested

Kidnappers mug shots

Alameda County Sheriff’s Workplace

It will take virtually two weeks to trace all of them down, however investigators lastly arrested 24-year-old Frederick Newhall Woods, left, the son of the proprietor of the rock quarry the place the youngsters escaped. In addition they arrested his associate in a used automobile enterprise, 24-year-old James Schoenfeld, heart, and his youthful brother Richard. All got here from rich households who lived in San Francisco’s nicest suburbs. Safety guards had seen the three males digging within the quarry months earlier than the kidnapping. 

The “plan”

Chowchilla kidnappers' plan

Alameda County D.A.’s Workplace

When investigators executed a warrant to look the property of Fred Woods’ father, they discovered a treasure trove of proof. One necessary piece was this doc that claims, “plan.” It units out how they had been going to commit the kidnapping and what they might do if one thing went improper. 

Draft of ransom notice

Chowchilal kidnappers ransom note

Alameda County D.A.’s Workplace

One other necessary piece of proof was this draft of a ransom notice. The draft of the notice says the abductors wished $2.5 million, however in fact, they had been going to ask for $5 million. They had been by no means in a position to ship their demand as a result of after they tried to name, the cellphone strains had been jammed. 

Listing of scholar’s names

Kidnappers list of students names

Alameda County D.A.’s Workplace

One other piece of necessary proof was this checklist of the kidnapped kids’s names written on the again of a Jack within the Field wrapper. The abductors wrote them down as they pulled every little one from the van. When later examined by investigators, they discovered fingerprints from two of the three kidnappers. 

Kidnapper Fred Woods

Frederick Woods 2018 mug shot

California Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation

The abductors had been all ultimately sentenced to life with the potential for parole. Thirty-six years after the kidnapping, Richard Schoenfeld was granted parole in June 2012. Three years later, his brother James was paroled.  Fred Woods,  the final kidnapper in jail,  was granted parole on August 17, 2022 after 17 earlier denials.

Survivor Jennifer Brown Hyde


CBS Information

Jennifer Brown Hyde is a spouse, mom and government assistant.  Till only recently, she couldn’t sleep and not using a nightlight.

Survivor Michael Marshall


CBS Information

Michael Marshall, 57, is a father and long-distance trucker. He has a remedy canine, Blue. He says, “I rescued him earlier than he was a 12 months previous. And now he rescues me daily.”

Survivor Larry Park


CBS Information

Larry Park owns a handyman enterprise and volunteers as a pastor at an area church. He says he has forgiven the abductors. 

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Underneath Part 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for “honest use” for functions resembling criticism, remark, information reporting, educating, scholarship, and analysis. Truthful use is a use permitted by copyright statute that may in any other case be infringing.”

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