Chowchilla bus kidnapping survivor’s lifelong struggle to maintain her captors behind bars

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Produced by Chris Young Ritzen, George Osterkamp, Mead Stone and Gary Winter

In August 2022, after 46 years, the final of three males convicted of kidnapping 26 kids and their bus driver was paroled from a jail in California. 

It was one of many largest kidnappings in U.S. historical past. A faculty bus with 26 kids was stopped by three armed gunmen as they headed residence from the Dairyland Elementary School within the small California city of Chowchilla.

The males had been carrying pantyhose over their faces.

“And then this man came up with a stocking over his head with a gun and said, “Open the door,'” said survivor Jodi Heffington, who was 10 at the time. Heffington relived the ordeal publicly for the first time in an interview with “48 Hours,” and shared emotional particulars of her life after.

“Where their eyes were, it was like, it almost looked hollow,” recalled survivor Larry Park, simply 6 years previous on the time. “It was like looking at death.”

The kids and their faculty bus driver had been transferred to vans and had been pushed for practically 12 insufferable hours earlier than being buried alive inside a truck trailer underground — held hostage at nighttime for an additional 16 hours earlier than they made a harrowing escape.


Just exterior Chowchilla on July 15, 1976, the horrifying journey started.

Jennifer Brown Hyde | Survivor: We begin driving down the highway …

Larry Park | Survivor: I’m questioning the way it was going to really feel to die.

Larry Park: I used to be too scared to maneuver.

Twenty-six terrified kids – some as younger as 5 – had been staring down the barrel of a sawed-off shotgun. Three masked males had hijacked the Dairyland Elementary faculty bus. One had the shotgun, one drove the bus, and one adopted behind within the white van they’d used to dam the highway.

Jodi Heffington | Survivor: It’s a tough factor to clarify, ‘trigger I by no means been round weapons.  You solely seen dangerous guys within the motion pictures with stockings on, you realize, so I knew it wasn’t good.   

Jennifer Brown Hyde: Edward … saved telling his children simply be quiet, sit down, do what they are saying. … Edward was talking in a harsh tone, and that usually was not the Edward that we knew and beloved.

Jennifer Brown Hyde: Eventually, the bus went off the highway, down right into a dry riverbed. 

Larry Park: Into this massive grove of bamboo that had been taller, really, than the bus.

The kidnappers drove the hijacked faculty bus right into a dry riverbed and hid it in tree brush.

Alameda County D.A’s Office

Jennifer Brown Hyde: And then as I appeared out one of many facet home windows, I noticed that there was one other van that was parked there …

AUDIO: JENNIFER BROWN, AGE 9: …They parked the bus.  And there was one other inexperienced — there was a inexperienced van down there ready for us.

Even on the age of 9, little Jennifer Brown appeared to know the horror that day must be documented.  She later made this recording along with her mother:

AUDIO: JENNIFER BROWN, AGE 9: And these two guys standing from the bus door to the van door with weapons with pantyhose over the pinnacle so we would not run out. … after which, see, they pulled the van proper as much as the bus door.

The kidnappers herded the surprised kids from the bus into these two vans. 

Jennifer Brown Hyde: We needed to leap from the bus to the van.

AUDIO: JENNIFER BROWN, AGE 9: So they would not see any toes prints.

Jodi Heffington: When it was my flip to get on the van … he stopped me. He held a shotgun to my abdomen. And I mentioned, “I was doing what you said.” And I needed to stand there with this gun in my intestine till that one van drove away and so they backed the second van up. It felt like ceaselessly. I assumed he was going to shoot me. I really did. 

Jennifer, Larry and the remainder of the youngsters adopted Jodi into the second van, together with the bus driver, Ed Ray.  Then the abductors closed the doorways. 

Jennifer Hyde: It was pitch darkish.

The vans had been transformed into makeshift jail cells by putting in wooden paneling and even portray the home windows.  No one might see in or out.

The kidnappers sped off with the youngsters caged in these cellular prisons. 

Jennifer Brown Hyde: And I felt like I used to be an animal going to the slaughterhouse.

Around that point, Jennifer’s mother, Joan Brown, got here residence from work and the home was empty.

Joan Brown: The kids weren’t there.  No peanut butter on the counter, no chairs on the market, effectively … they simply weren’t there.

As one hour turned to 2, frightened dad and mom started serving to the police retrace the college buses route, crisscrossing dozens of rural roads.       

Joan Brown: Where had been these kids?  Twenty-six of them and a bus driver?  Nowhere. 

And then, simply earlier than sundown, a police pilot noticed the massive bus about seven miles exterior Chowchilla, hidden within the dry riverbed. 

Sheriff Ed Bates | Madera County, California: You would solely see it from the air.

Madera County Sheriff Ed Bates rushed to the scene. His deputies had already discovered the bus empty.  The kids and their driver gone. 

The tire impressions discovered within the sand led straight to the entrance door of the bus.

Sheriff Ed Bates: Obviously somebody had backed their car as much as the doorways of the bus.

Sheriff Bates was satisfied the youngsters of Chowchilla had turn into the victims of a brazen and weird, mass kidnapping. 

Sheriff Ed Bates: I known as the governor.  I mentioned, “I need some help down here.”

Sheriff Ed Bates: I had the dad and mom all assembled there within the hearth station. … Well, you can simply take a look at their faces, and the nervousness and the concern was there.

Sheriff Ed Bates: I advised them, I known as the FBI. … And unexpectedly, I’ve 30 FBI brokers there.

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

Alameda County D.A.’s Office

As Sheriff Bates continued to widen the investigation, the youngsters continued to endure contained in the sweltering, pitch-black vans. 

Jodi Heffington: We’d bang on the place the drivers panel can be —like, “let us out, let us out” … and they’d simply say “shut up”. 

Jennifer Brown Hyde:  And we drove what appeared like for hours upon hours upon hours.

Larry Park: And I keep in mind that I saved falling asleep … and coming again awake. … I might dream … about being – [takes a long pause] — I might dream about being up within the forest the place my household would go tenting.

Jennifer Brown Hyde: We all tried to consolation one another.

AUDIO: JENNIFER BROWN, AGE 9: And a couple of of my little associates which are 5 and 6, they came to visit and began laying on me and crying. And I advised them be courageous as a result of it will be alright …

Then, the vans began to decelerate. The children might really feel it pulling off the highway, lurching back and forth on tough terrain, earlier than coming to a cease – after practically 12 insufferable hours. 

Larry Park: They opened up the door and so they took Ed Ray out first.  They shut the doorways again. And then there was nothing. There was no sound.

Jennifer Brown Hyde: And I bear in mind they’d simply seize the primary child that was contained in the door … They opened the door and so they grabbed someone else.

Larry Park:  And they simply saved doing that. They would open up the door …

Jodi Heffington: They’d take the subsequent child out. And they’d shut the doorways. But after they opened the doorways you do not see them. I assumed they had been mainly killing us every one after the other. 

Jennifer Brown Hyde … and I saved scooting to the again of the van, and I assumed perhaps if I cover within the nook, they will not come for me.

But they did.


Jennifer Brown Hyde: I did not know if it was within the desert, on the seaside. In the facet of a mountain? I had no thought the place we had been. I did not even know if we had been in California.

After virtually 12 hours in darkness, 10-year-old Jodi Heffington was the final to be taken out of the primary van.

Jodi Heffington: Being the final one … you do not know what is going on to occur since you do not see no person else. …What occurred to them? If you did not kill them, the place are they at? They had flashlights sort of like shining of their faces. And then one shining in your face. And they mentioned, “What’s your name?” And I really — I’ve just a little little bit of a smart-ass in me. And I mentioned, “Puddin Tang — ask me again and I’ll tell you the same.” I used to be pissed and I used to be scared on the similar time. They mentioned, “if you don’t tell us your name, you’re never going to see your mom and dad again, do you understand?” … And they took all my belongings … And then they mentioned, “you are going to go down on this gap proper right here.

The gap led to an previous truck trailer buried underground. Ed Ray and the youngsters from the primary van had been there.

Larry Park: There was a desk arrange within the again. It was surrounded with jugs of ingesting water …

Jodi Heffington: On a number of the mattresses, they’d some cereal, a loaf of bread and a few peanut butter.

Jennifer Brown Hyde: … within the wheel wells, they’d minimize holes in ’em for bogs. We might hear followers. So, we knew that there was some type of air flow. 

Interior of the hole
Bus driver Ed Ray and the youngsters had been taken out of the van, one after the other, and despatched down right into a gap inside an previous truck trailer buried 12 toes underground.  

James Palmer / AP

Michael Marshall, 14, was nonetheless within the different van with a number of the youngest kids.

Michael Marshall | Survivor: The children acquired a maintain of me and had been holding onto me. And … simply scared out of their – you realize, we had been all – simply scared out of our wits. 

As they did earlier than, the abductors eliminated the youngsters one after the other. Michael and the youngest, 5-year-old Monica Ardery, had been the final ones left within the van. 

Michael Marshall: It was simply me and her.

Not understanding what had occurred to the opposite kids or in the event that they had been even alive, Michael says he could not bear at hand Monica over to the abductors. So, after they opened the doorways once more, he went first.

Michael Marshall: I needed to take her arms from mine and rip —and tear them aside, say it could be OK. And go together with them and depart her. … That was onerous.

“I remember it just went dark. … And then you just hear the material getting thrown on us … we were being buried alive,” mentioned survivor Michael Marshall.

CBS News

Michael Marshall: As quickly as I acquired on that ladder and took a step down … and I heard the remainder of the youngsters say, “It’s Mike. … It’s Mikey. Michael.” And I spotted that everyone was alive.

And to his aid, not lengthy after, Monica got here climbing down the ladder. They had been all collectively once more.

Michael Marshall: We’re OK. We’re OK. We’re OK. So proper now, up to now, we’re alright.

But the sense of aid was short-lived.

Jennifer Brown Hyde: Before I knew it, the ladder was gone. They threw a roll of bathroom paper down and mentioned, “We’ll be back for you.” And that was it.

The kidnappers then coated the opening with a manhole cowl.

Michael Marshall: I bear in mind it simply went darkish. … And then you definately simply hear the fabric (strikes his arms in a digging movement) getting thrown on us … we had been being buried alive.

They had been buried 12 toes underground.

Jodi Heffington: I simply bear in mind trying up at that gap. I wished to remain shut. I wished to be like proper there. Because that was the best way out.


Larry Park: Ed Ray and Mike Marshall they checked out each nook, each wall … for an escape route. They acquired beneath the manhole cowl and pushed up on it. And they could not transfer it. So, Ed Ray decided that it was time for everybody to get some relaxation.

The minutes and hours ticked by.

Michael Marshall: … It can be silent after which someone would bust out crying and the outlet would simply erupt. Everybody’s crying.

Michael Marshall: The factor that made me cry was not with the ability to say goodbye to my mother. … And I’m remembering the final time that I noticed her [gets emotional] and wishing I might have advised her goodbye.

CBS NEWS REPORT: Throughout a lot of today, dad and mom and different household of the lacking kids got here to the command publish arrange in downtown Chowchilla to strive desperately to fathom some motive out of this insanity. Carol Marshall’s 14-year-old son Mike was one other on the bus.

REPORTER: Any probability in any respect this might be a horrible hoax or joke that somebody is taking part in?

CAROL MARSHALL: I think about there’s a probability. I hope that is all it’s.

This was one of many largest kidnappings in U.S. historical past.

CBS NEWS REPORTSo far there’s been no phrase from any abductors …  

Sheriff Ed Bates: Two heavily-laden [sic] automobiles had taken 26 kids and their bus driver. That’s not straightforward to do. And how did they management them? And what did they do with them?

As investigators intensified their search, Jennifer and Jeff’s mother Joan waited by the telephone hoping to listen to information about her kids.

Joan Brown:  I bear in mind later that day, praying and saying to God that should you convey them again … I’ll promise you that I’ll — after which I finished as a result of there was nothing I can provide in alternate for my kids.

They had been within the gap for nearly 12 hours and the situations had been deteriorating.

Jennifer Brown Hyde was 9 on the time of the kidnapping. “My little brain started to grasp the concept of we may really not go home.”

CBS News

Jennifer Brown Hyde: We had eaten the meals. … The followers on the ventilators stopped.

Jennifer Brown Hyde: My little mind began to understand the idea of we could actually not go residence.

Larry Park: There was this one boy. … And he saved kicking blocks out from beneath the 4×4 pillars. And so, the roof of the van was beginning to collapse. The seams had been breaking. Dust was flowing via. And I bear in mind kids simply screaming and crying. … The sides of the van had been bowing in. … I knew that I used to be going to die. I knew it.

Jennifer Brown Hyde: We thought, and so they mentioned —  the older children and Edward —  if we will die, had been going to die making an attempt to get out of right here.


Jennifer Brown Hyde | Survivor: As a younger child, you do not have lots of sense of time. … There was no daylight. So, you could not inform if it was day or night time. … We had been out of meals, we had been out of water, the roof was caving in…. It simply was a determined scenario.

Jodi Heffington | Survivor: Everybody acquired the mattresses and stacked them up as excessive as we might go.

Larry Park | Survivor: … proper beneath the manhole cowl.

Jodi Heffington: People began standing on one another’s shoulders. … I used to be a really tall woman and really robust, so that they stood on my shoulders after they did not stand on Edward’s. 

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.

Alameda County D.A.’s Office

They took turns pushing up on the manhole cowl.

Michael Marshall: … And I’m giving it all the pieces I acquired, and all the youngsters are cheering me on. You know, “Come on Mike, you can do it. You can do it.” And then unexpectedly, they mentioned, “It moved, it moved.”

But they had been removed from being free. The kidnappers had put truck batteries and dust on high of the manhole cowl and had constructed a picket field round it. Once the manhole cowl was moved, that field was simply sufficiently big for Michael to face in. 

AUDIO: MICHAEL MARSHALL, AGE 14:  Edward squeezes me via this half-foot gap.

Like Jennifer, Michael Marshall made a recording about his expertise.

AUDIO: MICHAEL MARSHALL, AGE 14I get on high of it and I begin pounding on this field. Start hitting and pounding, hitting and pounding.

Larry Park: He dug till he was exhausted after which he saved on digging. There was no give up in him.

AUDIO: MICHAEL MARSHALL, AGE 14None of us knew if once we acquired out, they had been simply going to be standing there with shotguns at our head and stuff, so we had been sort of … fairly scared.

Larry Park: Then suddenly this ray of sunlight [cries, then pauses]. This ray of sunlight came down into the opening. And it was catching the dust. And the dust particles looked like a bunch of shooting stars. … There was this airflow that came out of the van and I knew we were free. I need a minute. [Gets up from his chair, overcome with emotion.]

Michael Marshall, 14 and bus driver Ed Ray piled up mattresses that had been left within the gap — and after 16 hours in darkness managed to dig their method to security. 

Michael Marshall

Michael Marshall [sighs, then pauses]: The air and the sunshine it was beaming coming via …

Larry Park: Mike Marshall, really, courageous particular person that he’s, crawled out of the outlet first.

Michael Marshall: And I caught my head out and … I did not see anyone. … I might see we had been within the hills …

Jodi Heffington: He mentioned “the coast is clear.” And so we began taking the little ones and placing them up there. And Mike grabbed them. …That half was sort of scary too as a result of we’re out now. … We do not know who’s out right here.

It was roughly 8 p.m. on July 16. They had been within the gap for practically 16 hours.

Jennifer Brown Hyde: We all simply scurried like a bunch of little mice. … We noticed conveyor belts and excavators … It appeared like “The Flintstones.” … And all these males with onerous hats on got here to us and checked out us like, “who are you?”

The kidnappers had buried them in a rock quarry in Livermore, California, 100 miles away from Chowchilla. When police arrived, as proof, they took pictures of each baby.

Jodi Heffington: An Alameda County jail bus got here. (Sarcastically laughs) It was like, “yeah, they put us back on a bus.”

Then they transported them to the closest place that would maintain them — the Santa Rita Rehabilitation Center — a neighborhood jail.

Jennifer Brown Hyde: I bear in mind getting in — within the bus and you can see the jail wire. … And you thought effectively, “they’re taking us into jail.”

Jennifer Brown Hyde: They took us into what appeared like lecture rooms. … They introduced us apples and soda.

At the Santa Rita Rehabilitation Center, the youngsters got apples and soda, and examined by medical doctors. Jennifer Brown, 9, is pictured at middle.

Alameda County D.A.’s Office

AUDIO: JENNIFER BROWN, AGE 9: They had these coveralls. … And all these little children go into ’em and we needed to roll the pants about 10 toes. And we rolled the arms up and we had been all sitting there — a few of ’em did not roll our arms up and we sitting there flapping our arms. We mentioned, “Hey we can fly!?”

Over the subsequent few hours, Ed Ray and the youngsters had been examined by medical doctors. They had been additionally questioned by police.

Jodi Heffington: Each one in every of us was interrogated by ourselves to inform our story.

Jennifer Brown Hyde: How do you describe someone that has pantyhose over their face? 

Chowchilla students after escape
Finally, roughly 4 hours after escaping, the youngsters boarded yet one more bus – this time, to go residence.

Alameda County D.A.’s Office

After 4 hours of questioning, they had been lastly allowed to go residence.

Michael Marshall: They put us on a Greyhound … escorted us again to Chowchilla.

Larry Park: It was time for mother and pop. I simply wished my mother and pop.

It had been virtually 36 hours since their traumatic ordeal started.

Jennifer Brown Hyde: The scene was like a mob scene … information cameras and TV lights.

AUDIO: JENNIFER BROWN, AGE 9: Everybody said saying, “are you all right Jennifer” and all these items and I mentioned “Yeah. I’m fine.” Then each time we acquired into this room, I discovered my mother and my dad.

AUDIO: MICHAEL MARSHALL, AGE 14: We pulled as much as Chowchilla and I used to be asleep. … So, once I acquired off the bus all people began taking photos of me saying, “Hi Mike, how you doing? What was the pit like?”

Jodi Heffington: They simply allow us to off the bus with all these individuals … And you did not know the place your dad and mom had been (emotional).  

Survivor Larry Park, 6, after being reunited together with his dad and mom. “I finally felt safe again,” he mentioned.

AP Photo

Larry Park: This man carried me off the bus. And he put me in my mother’s arms, and I mentioned, “Hi mom,” and fell asleep on her shoulder. …. I felt like I used to be lastly secure [emotional].

Jodi Heffington: Nothing was ever the identical. Nothing was ever the identical after that. (emotional)

Joan Brown: We had no thought what our children had been via. None in any respect. 

HAROLD DOW | CBS NEWS: How does it really feel to be a giant film star?

JENNIFER BROWN, AGE 9: I do not know. I’ve by no means been a film star earlier than.

CBS NEW REPORT: For 9- year-old Jennifer Brown, the expertise has allowed her to nonetheless see the world with compassion. 

HAROLD DOW | CBS NEWS: Why do you suppose that they’d do one thing like that?

JENNIFER BROWN: I do not know. They did not have sufficient love.

Joan Brown: She had horrible nightmares. … she would run screaming into our bed room, and he or she wasn’t even awake … And she would inform us later that she dreamt that they had been lined up and shot.

Larry Park: One night time … I used to be dreaming that I …. was falling down this gap and I used to be making an attempt to get out. … I began screaming for my mother. Mom got here in. … And all I might do was cry. And all she might do was maintain me. There was nothing extra that might be accomplished.


In the times following the youngsters escape, investigators searched the rock quarry and the van that had been their underground tomb hoping they’d discover clues that may cause them to the abductors.

“Today in this rock quarry, they unearthed the truck that was prison and very nearly a tomb for 26 children and their school bus driver. Unearthing the ‘who’ and ‘why’ of all this is much harder,” reported Richard Threlkeld for CBS News.

Alameda County D.A’s Office

Prosecutor Jill Klinge | Alameda County: They appeared to see who would have keys to the quarry. … In order to have entry to bury this shifting container undetected, you would need to have entry.  Fred Woods had keys to that quarry.

Frederick Newhall Woods, 24, the son of the proprietor of the quarry, instantly grew to become an individual of curiosity.

Prosecutor Jill Klinge: …Then they appeared on the ledger, surveillance tapes and began to place all of it collectively at that time.

Security guards advised investigators they’d seen three younger males digging a big gap within the quarry months earlier than the kidnapping. One of them they mentioned was Fred Woods.

And Woods had a document.  Two years earlier, he had been charged with grand theft auto. Arrested with him had been two of his associates – James Schoenfeld, Fred’s associate in a used automobile enterprise, and James’s youthful brother, Richard. All three had been from rich households who lived in San Francisco’s nicest suburbs. They escaped with a advantageous and probation. 


Prosecutor Jill Klinge: They’re younger. … They’re rich. I feel it added a part of fascination to the story as a result of it was so unlikely that three males reminiscent of these would commit such an atrocious crime.

Investigators executed a warrant to go looking Fred Woods’ father’s property. 

RICHARD THRELKELD | CBS NEWS: For the final two days, the Woods property has appeared like an armed camp, dozens of officers on the lookout for something.

What they discovered there was a treasure trove of proof.

Prosecutor Jill Klinge: We had been in a position to get well one of many weapons that was used throughout this kidnapping.

Prosecutor Jill Klinge: This crime was deliberate out for a year-and-a-half in intricate element.

Prosecutor Jill Klinge: You even have a doc labeled “plan.”  And it units out … the best way they had been going to commit the kidnapping after which they on the right-hand facet put … how they’d compensate or take care of what might go improper.

They additionally recovered a draft of a ransom word.    

Prosecutor Jill Klinge: The draft of the ransom word says $2.5 million, however actually, they had been going to ask for $5 million from the State of California. 

Investigators executed a warrant to go looking Fred Woods’ father’s property and located a treasure trove of proof – together with the kjdnappers’ detailed plan and this draft of a ransom word.

Alameda County D.A.’s Office

But the abductors had been by no means in a position to ship their demand.

Prosecutor Jill Klinge: They tried to name the Chowchilla Police Department. Because of the variety of calls that had been coming in worldwide … the telephone traces had been jammed. They could not get via. So, they took a nap.  And by the point they wakened, they noticed on the information that the youngsters had been discovered. So, they had been by no means in a position to request the ransom. 

RICHARD THRELKELD | CBS NEWS: And so the search is on nationwide for these three males …

Arrest warrants had been issued. Richard Schoenfeld turned himself in. Fred Woods and James Schoenfeld fled California, however not for lengthy.

HAROLD DOW | CBS NEWS: James Schoenfeld was captured at daybreak immediately. Police say he ran onerous, all around the Western United States, however he didn’t run effectively. … Frederick Woods was arrested by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police this afternoon, simply throughout the Washington State border in Vancouver. 

Jodi Heffington: I bear in mind being bodily in poor health once I really noticed them. … After that you just sort of did have a way of (takes a deep breath) … you may breathe.  …They’re behind bars. 

So, what drove these younger males, seemingly effectively off, to kidnap younger kids for cash?  James Schoenfeld ultimately advised police, regardless of their dad and mom’ wealth, he and Fred Woods had been in severe debt.  

The kidnappers, from left, Fred Woods, James Schoenfeld, middle, and his youthful brother Richard Schoenfeld

Alameda County Sheriff’s Office

He would later inform the parole board: “We needed multiple victims to get multiple millions, and we picked children because children are precious. The state would be willing to pay ransom for them.  And they don’t fight back.”

Sheriff Ed Bates: I feel that the 2 Schoenfelds did it simply on pure persuasion by Fred Woods. Fred Woods … in my very own private opinion, and I’ve a grasp’s diploma, I feel he was a sociopath. Some would possibly name him a psychopath.  

With the overwhelming proof towards them, Woods and the Schoenfelds pleaded responsible to 27 counts of kidnapping for ransom and theft. But they refused to plead responsible to the eight counts of bodily hurt. Those fees would ship them to jail for all times with out the potential of parole. So, 16 months after their abduction, Jennifer, Michael and a number of the different kids confronted the abductors in court docket.

Jodi Heffington: You’re on this little field … and so they’re there taking a look at you, simply evident at you and staring you down.

They testified that along with the emotional trauma, they’d suffered bodily wounds like cuts and bruises.

Jodi Heffington: And I appeared over at them and I simply broke down. …That was the primary time I cried. … So, they allowed my father to return sit by me and that made me really feel rather a lot safer.

Jennifer Brown Hyde:  And the abductors had been sitting to my left at a desk. … I bear in mind giving my dad my gum as a result of I advised him I used to be going to spit my gum at ’em. 

REPORTER AT COURTHOUSE: You say they’d offer you this humorous look. What did that make you’re feeling?


Jennifer Brown Hyde: I did my testimony.  I answered my questions.  And I left that courtroom with my head held excessive. And there was no manner that I used to be going to allow them to see me cry.

WALTER CRONKITE | CBS EVENING NEWS ANCHOR: A California decide immediately imposed necessary life jail sentences with out parole on these three younger males who kidnapped 26 Chowchilla faculty kids …

Joan Brown: Life in jail with out the potential of parole. That was all we would have liked. That’s what we would have liked.

Jennifer Brown Hyde:  I bear in mind pondering they’ll jail … they are not going to do that to anyone else. And that is all that I have to know.

With the abductors sentenced to jail for the remainder of their lives, the survivors thought their nightmare was lastly over. But it was simply starting.


Just 5 weeks after being buried alive, the gutsy kids of Chowchilla and their bus driver Ed Ray had been hailed as heroes. There was even a visit to Disneyland.

Larry Park: And everybody thought that was nice as a result of the great reminiscences of Disneyland would overshadow the dangerous reminiscences of the kidnapping.

Many of the survivors of the Chowchilla kidnapping gathered for a photograph on the Ed Ray Day celebration on August 22, 1976. Ray, the college bus driver, is pictured again row middle subsequent to Michael Marshall. 

Jennifer Brown Hyde

It wasn’t that straightforward.

Jennifer Brown Hyde: In a manner you attempt to be regular.  But … if you’ve gone via one thing that is so traumatic, it is onerous to return and be a traditional child once more.

Jodi Heffington: Sometimes it is like life is an act.  You attempt to be good for everyone else so they do not fear, however they fear anyway, so … I counsel all people else to not do it that manner. 

The survivors struggled to maneuver ahead.  But simply 4 years after the kidnappings – a vital turning level.

Prosecutor Jill Klinge: The kidnappers’ legal professionals appealed the discovering of bodily hurt. And the appellate court docket overturned it. And whereas acknowledging the horrific nature of the crime, said that the accidents suffered didn’t rise to the extent of bodily hurt beneath the regulation. 

So, Fred Woods and the Schoenfeld brothers had been resentenced to life with the potential of parole.

Prosecutor Jill Klinge: They would get a parole listening to each one or two years.

Larry Park: I felt like I had been betrayed by the justice system.

Just six years after the kidnappings, the parade of parole hearings started.

Prosecutor Jill Klinge: Every time one of many kidnappers got here up for parole … it triggered all their fears and trauma …

The hearings occurred contained in the jail. 

Prosecutor Jill Klinge: They sit in the identical room, and it isn’t a big room, with the kidnapper.

Jodi Heffington: The first time, I used to be terrified.

For all three kidnappers, there have been greater than 60 parole hearings thus far. Jodi Heffington went to almost all of them.

Jodi Heffington: It simply looks as if each three years I am going. And I am going 3 times, each time. … It’s excruciating and the aftermath is — by no means good.

Jodi and the opposite survivors watched helplessly as Richard Schoenfeld was the primary to be granted parole in June 2012, 36 years after the kidnappings.  Three years later, James Schoenfeld was paroled, too.

Prosecutor Jill Klinge: As far as I do know, they haven’t been in any sort of hassle.

Fred Woods at his fifteenth parole listening to in 2018.

CBS News/George Osterkamp

The similar couldn’t be mentioned for Fred Woods. He repeatedly broke jail guidelines. He was caught with pornography and cell telephones.

AUDIO FROM 2018 PAROLE HEARING:  Hello. My title is Jodi Medrano. I used to be Jodi Heffington.

Jodi Heffington at parole hearing
Jodi Heffington, proper, at a 2018 parole listening to for Fred Woods, went to virtually the entire parole hearings for the three convicted kidnappers. 

George Osterkamp

In 2018, “48 Hours” was at Fred Woods’ fifteenth parole listening to and recorded audio of Jodi’s testimony.

AUDIO FROM 2018 PAROLE HEARING | JODI HEFFINGTON MEDRANO: To hearken to him speak about his poor childhood … (sarcastically laughs) I do not know if I need to chuckle, cry, cuss him or what … Because the place did my childhood go?


Jodi Heffington: Like I advised him, Mr. Woods – you are not a kidnapper, you are a thief.  You’re a thief of lives.  Not simply the youngsters that had been within the bus.  But they stole our households’ lives, and what all of us had earlier than that.

After that listening to, Woods was once more denied parole.

It was 28 hours of terror that can at all times be with Michael, Jennifer, Jodi and Larry — all who’ve managed to seek out methods to get on with residing.

Larry Park: Healing continues should you permit it.

Larry Park, who spent his 20’s and 30’s abusing medicine, now owns a handyman enterprise and volunteers as a pastor at a neighborhood church.  His nightmares have lastly stopped.  And he’s sober.

Larry Park: I’ve 9 years sober.

His sobriety was motivated by an epiphany in regards to the kidnappers.      

Larry Park: My resentment for them … was killing me. … One night time … I used to be laying in mattress … and I mentioned, “God help me to forgive them.”

After years of anger and resentment, Larry Park. left,made peace, forgiving his kidnappers. Here he’s pictured with Richard Schoenfeld, who was granted parole in June 2012, 36 years after the kidnappings.

Larry Park

Larry met the lads, shook their arms, and did forgive them.  Here he’s…with Richard Schoenfeld.

Larry Park: It modified my life. … Something washed over me. … And there was peace like I had by no means recognized.  And I knew that day that I might be OK.

Jennifer Brown Hyde – a spouse, mom and government assistant – says it took her many years earlier than she might even sleep with no night-light.

Jennifer Brown Hyde: I’ve had household and church household … and associates which have piece by piece helped put me again collectively. … And I need individuals to know that that little woman that was kidnapped and buried alive has managed to reside an exquisite life.

Michael Marshall had misplaced his manner after the kidnapping.

Michael Marshall: I went to mattress at 18 drunk and hung over and blacked out. And wakened about 48, you realize, with a hangover, blurry.

He is sober and has discovered happiness as father and a long-distance trucker. He tries not to consider these kidnappers.

Michael Marshall: What they put my mother and pop via is one thing I can’t forgive.

Jodi Heffington
” Nothing was ever the same. Nothing was ever the same after that,” Jodi Heffington mentioned of the 1976 kidnapping.

CBS News

Jodi Heffington by no means left the Chowchilla space. She opened her personal hair salon and raised a son, however she struggled to seek out peace of thoughts.

Jodi Heffington: How that day affected me, has affected me every single day not directly or one other. … I feel it made me not a superb daughter, not a superb sister, not a superb aunt and particularly not a superb mom.  And in all probability not a superb buddy. … I attempt to be these issues, nevertheless it looks as if it, um, it simply took one thing from me that I can not ever get again. And I can not tear it down — regardless of how onerous I attempt to it doesn’t matter what I do. 

In January 2021, Jodi Heffington handed away. She was 55 years previous.

Fourteen months after her loss of life, Fred Woods went earlier than the parole board for the 18th time. This time, he was granted parole.

Produced by Chris Young Ritzen and George Osterkamp. Gary Winter and Mead Stone are producer-editors. Jordan Kinsey and Hannah Vair are the affiliate producers. Joan Adelman is the editor. Nancy Kramer is the chief story editor. Judy Tygard is the chief producer.

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