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Chowchilla bus kidnapping survivor’s lifelong fight to keep her captors behind bars


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Produced by Chris Younger 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 college bus with 26 kids was stopped by three armed gunmen as they headed residence from the Dairyland Elementary Faculty within the small California city of Chowchilla.

The lads have been carrying pantyhose over their faces.

“After which this man got here up with a stocking over his head with a gun and mentioned, “Open the door,'” mentioned survivor Jodi Heffington, who was 10 on the time. Heffington relived the ordeal publicly for the primary time in an interview with “48 Hours,” and shared emotional particulars of her life after.

“The place their eyes have been, it was like, it virtually seemed hole,” recalled survivor Larry Park, simply 6 years outdated on the time. “It was like loss of life.”

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


Simply outdoors Chowchilla on July 15, 1976, the scary journey started.

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

Larry Park | Survivor: I am 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 – have been staring down the barrel of a sawed-off shotgun. Three masked males had hijacked the Dairyland Elementary college 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 is a onerous factor to elucidate, ‘trigger I by no means been round weapons.  You solely seen dangerous guys within the films with stockings on, you understand, so I knew it wasn’t good.   

Jennifer Brown Hyde: Edward … stored telling his youngsters 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 liked.

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

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

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

Alameda County D.A’s Workplace

Jennifer Brown Hyde: After which as I seemed 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 needs to be documented.  She later made this recording along with her mother:

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

The abductors herded the shocked kids from the bus into these two vans. 

Jennifer Brown Hyde: We needed to soar 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 used to be doing what you mentioned.” And I needed to stand there with this gun in my intestine till that one van drove away they usually backed the second van up. It felt like perpetually. I believed he was going to shoot me. I truly did. 

Jennifer, Larry and the remainder of the kids 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.  Nobody may see in or out.

The abductors sped off with the kids caged in these cell prisons. 

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

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

Joan Brown: The youngsters weren’t there.  No peanut butter on the counter, no chairs on the market, nicely … they only weren’t there.

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

Joan Brown: The place have been these kids?  Twenty-six of them and a bus driver?  Nowhere. 

After which, simply earlier than sundown, a police pilot noticed the massive bus about seven miles outdoors Chowchilla, hidden within the dry riverbed. 

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

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

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

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

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

Sheriff Ed Bates: I referred to as the governor.  I mentioned, “I want some assist down right here.”

Sheriff Ed Bates: I had the dad and mom all assembled there within the fireplace station. … Effectively, you could possibly simply have a look at their faces, and the anxiousness and the worry was there.

Sheriff Ed Bates: I instructed them, I referred to as the FBI. … And abruptly, I’ve 30 FBI brokers there.

The shocked kids have been herded from their bus into two vans. They have been pressured to leap from the bus to the vans in order that they’d not go away behind any footprints.

Alameda County D.A.’s Workplace

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

Jodi Heffington: We would bang on the place the drivers panel can be —like, “allow us to out, allow us to out” … and they might 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 stored falling asleep … and coming again awake. … I’d dream … about being – [takes a long pause] — I’d dream about being up within the forest the place my household would go tenting.

Jennifer Brown Hyde: All of us tried to consolation one another.

AUDIO: JENNIFER BROWN, AGE 9: And some of my little pals which are 5 and 6, they came visiting and began laying on me and crying. And I instructed them be courageous as a result of it’ll be alright …

Then, the vans began to decelerate. The youngsters may really feel it pulling off the highway, lurching backward and forward on tough terrain, earlier than coming to a cease – after practically 12 insufferable hours. 

Larry Park: They opened up the door they usually took Ed Ray out first.  They shut the doorways again. After which 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 they usually grabbed any person else.

Larry Park:  And so they simply stored doing that. They’d open up the door …

Jodi Heffington: They’d take the following child out. And they’d shut the doorways. However once they opened the doorways you do not see them. I believed they have been mainly killing us every one after the other. 

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

However they did.


Jennifer Brown Hyde: I did not know if it was within the desert, on the seashore. Within the facet of a mountain? I had no thought the place we have been. I did not even know if we have 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? When you did not kill them, the place are they at? They’d flashlights form of like shining of their faces. After which one shining in your face. And so they mentioned, “What’s your title?” And I truly — I’ve a bit of little bit of a smart-ass in me. And I mentioned, “Puddin Tang — ask me once more and I am going to inform you a similar.” I used to be pissed and I used to be scared on the identical time. They mentioned, “in the event you do not inform us your title, you are by no means going to see your mother and pop once more, do you perceive?” … And so they took all my belongings … After which they mentioned, “you are going to go down on this gap proper right here.

The outlet led to an outdated truck trailer buried underground. Ed Ray and the kids from the primary van have been there.

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

Jodi Heffington: On a few 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 bathrooms. We may hear followers. So, we knew that there was some kind of air flow. 

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

James Palmer / AP

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

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

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

Michael Marshall: It was simply me and her.

Not figuring out what had occurred to the opposite kids or in the event that they have been even alive, Michael says he could not bear at hand Monica over to the abductors. So, once 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 along with them and go away her. … That was onerous.

“I bear in mind it simply went darkish. … And you then simply hear the fabric getting thrown on us … we have been being buried alive,” mentioned survivor Michael Marshall.

CBS Information

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 is Mike. … It is Mikey. Michael.” And I noticed that everyone was alive.

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

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

However the sense of reduction was short-lived.

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

The abductors then coated the opening with a manhole cowl.

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

They have been buried 12 toes underground.

Jodi Heffington: I simply bear in mind wanting up at that gap. I needed to remain shut. I needed to be like proper there. As a result of 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 so 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 will be silent after which any person would bust out crying and the opening would simply erupt. Everyone’s crying.

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

CBS NEWS REPORT: All through a lot of at the present time, dad and mom and different household of the lacking kids got here to the command submit 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 could possibly 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 REPORTThus far there’s been no phrase from any abductors …  

Sheriff Ed Bates: Two heavily-laden [sic] autos had taken 26 kids and their bus driver. That is not straightforward to do. And the way 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 cellphone hoping to listen to information about her kids.

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

They’d been within the gap for nearly 12 hours and the situations have been deteriorating.

Jennifer Brown Hyde was 9 on the time of the kidnapping. “My little mind began to understand the idea of we could actually not go residence.”

CBS Information

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 stored kicking blocks out from beneath the 4×4 pillars. And so, the roof of the van was beginning to collapse. The seams have been breaking. Mud was flowing via. And I bear in mind kids simply screaming and crying. … The perimeters of the van have been bowing in. … I knew that I used to be going to die. I knew it.

Jennifer Brown Hyde: We thought, they usually mentioned —  the older youngsters and Edward —  if we will die, have been going to die attempting to get out of right here.


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

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

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

Jodi Heffington: Individuals began standing on one another’s shoulders. … I used to be a really tall lady and really sturdy, in order that they stood on my shoulders once they did not stand on Edward’s. 

The youngsters 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, they usually have been working out of meals.

Alameda County D.A.’s Workplace

They took turns pushing up on the manhole cowl.

Michael Marshall: … And I am giving it all the pieces I acquired, and all the youngsters are cheering me on. You already know, “Come on Mike, you are able to do it. You are able to do it.” After which abruptly, they mentioned, “It moved, it moved.”

However they have been removed from being free. The abductors had put truck batteries and filth on high of the manhole cowl and had constructed a picket field round it. As soon as the manhole cowl was moved, that field was simply large enough 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. Begin hitting and pounding, hitting and pounding.

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

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

Larry Park: Then out of the blue this ray of daylight [cries, then pauses]. This ray of daylight got here down into the opening. And it was catching the mud. And the mud particles seemed like a bunch of capturing stars. … There was this airflow that got here out of the van and I knew we have been free. I want a minute. [Gets up from his chair, overcome with emotion.]

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

Michael Marshall

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

Larry Park: Mike Marshall, truly, courageous individual that he’s, crawled out of the opening first.

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

Jodi Heffington: He mentioned “the coast is evident.” And so we began taking the little ones and placing them up there. And Mike grabbed them. …That half was form 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’d been within the gap for practically 16 hours.

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

The abductors 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 again on a bus.”

Then they transported them to the closest place that would maintain them — the Santa Rita Rehabilitation Middle — an area jail.

Jennifer Brown Hyde: I bear in mind entering into — within the bus and you could possibly see the jail wire. … And also you thought nicely, “they’re taking us into jail.”

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

On the Santa Rita Rehabilitation Middle, the kids got apples and soda, and examined by medical doctors. Jennifer Brown, 9, is pictured at middle.

Alameda County D.A.’s Workplace

AUDIO: JENNIFER BROWN, AGE 9: They’d these coveralls. … And all these little youngsters go into ’em and we needed to roll the pants about 10 toes. And we rolled the arms up and we have 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 will fly!?”

Over the following few hours, Ed Ray and the kids have been examined by medical doctors. They have been additionally questioned by police.

Jodi Heffington: Every one among us was interrogated by ourselves to inform our story.

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

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

Alameda County D.A.’s Workplace

After 4 hours of questioning, they have 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 needed 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: Everyone acknowledged saying, “are you all proper Jennifer” and all these things and I mentioned “Yeah. I am superb.” Then every 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 everyone began taking footage of me saying, “Hello Mike, the way you doing? What was the pit like?”

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

Survivor Larry Park, 6, after being reunited along with his dad and mom. “I lastly felt protected once more,” he mentioned.

AP Photograph

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

HAROLD DOW | CBS NEWS: How does it really feel to be an enormous 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 he or she would inform us later that she dreamt that they have been lined up and shot.

Larry Park: One evening … I used to be dreaming that I …. was falling down this gap and I used to be attempting to get out. … I began screaming for my mother. Mother got here in. … And all I may do was cry. And all she may do was maintain me. There was nothing extra that could possibly be achieved.


Within the days following the youngsters escape, investigators searched the rock quarry and the van that had been their underground tomb hoping they’d discover clues that will make them the abductors.

“Right this moment on this rock quarry, they unearthed the truck that was jail and really practically a tomb for 26 kids and their college bus driver. Unearthing the ‘who’ and ‘why’ of all that is a lot tougher,” reported Richard Threlkeld for CBS Information.

Alameda County D.A’s Workplace

Prosecutor Jill Klinge | Alameda County: They seemed to see who would have keys to the quarry. … With a purpose 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 seemed on the ledger, surveillance tapes and began to place all of it collectively at that time.

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

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

Prosecutor Jill Klinge: They’re younger. … They’re rich. I feel it added a element of fascination to the story as a result of it was so unlikely that three males comparable to 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 seemed 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 have been capable of 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 have been going to commit the kidnapping after which they on the right-hand facet put … how they’d compensate or cope with what may go mistaken.

In addition they recovered a draft of a ransom be aware.    

Prosecutor Jill Klinge: The draft of the ransom be aware says $2.5 million, however in truth, they have 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 be aware.

Alameda County D.A.’s Workplace

However the kidnappers have been by no means capable of ship their demand.

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

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

Arrest warrants have 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 at this time. Police say he ran onerous, everywhere in the Western United States, however he didn’t run nicely. … 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 truly noticed them. … After that you simply form of did have a way of (takes a deep breath) … you may breathe.  …They’re behind bars. 

So, what drove these younger males, seemingly nicely off, to kidnap younger kids for cash?  James Schoenfeld finally instructed police, regardless of their dad and mom’ wealth, he and Fred Woods have been in critical debt.  

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

Alameda County Sheriff’s Workplace

He would later inform the parole board: “We wanted a number of victims to get a number of hundreds of thousands, and we picked kids as a result of kids are treasured. The state can be keen to pay ransom for them.  And so they do not struggle again.”

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. However they refused to plead responsible to the eight counts of bodily hurt. These costs would ship them to jail for all times with out the opportunity of parole. So, 16 months after their abduction, Jennifer, Michael and a few of the different kids confronted the abductors in court docket.

Jodi Heffington: You are on this little field … they usually’re there you, simply obvious 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 seemed 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 so much safer.

Jennifer Brown Hyde:  And the abductors have been sitting to my left at a desk. … I bear in mind giving my dad my gum as a result of I instructed 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 method that I used to be going to allow them to see me cry.

WALTER CRONKITE | CBS EVENING NEWS ANCHOR: A California choose at this time imposed necessary life jail sentences with out parole on these three younger males who kidnapped 26 Chowchilla college kids …

Joan Brown: Life in jail with out the opportunity of parole. That was all we wanted. That is what we wanted.

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

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


Simply 5 weeks after being buried alive, the gutsy kids of Chowchilla and their bus driver Ed Ray have 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 recollections of Disneyland would overshadow the dangerous recollections of the kidnapping.

Most 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 method you attempt to be regular.  However … once you’ve gone via one thing that is so traumatic, it is onerous to return and be a standard child once more.

Jodi Heffington: Generally 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 everyone else to not do it that method. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The hearings passed off 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 primary time, I used to be terrified.

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

Jodi Heffington: It simply looks like each three years I am going. And I am going 3 times, each time. … It is 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: So far as I do know, they haven’t been in any form of bother.

Fred Woods at his fifteenth parole listening to in 2018.

CBS Information/George Osterkamp

The identical 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:  Good day. 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 all the 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 wish to snicker, cry, cuss him or what … As a result of the place did my childhood go?

Jodi Heffington: Like I instructed him, Mr. Woods – you are not a kidnapper, you are a thief.  You are a thief of lives.  Not simply the youngsters that have been within the bus.  However 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 all the time be with Michael, Jennifer, Jodi and Larry — all who’ve managed to search out methods to get on with dwelling.

Larry Park: Therapeutic continues in the event 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 an area 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 evening … I used to be laying in mattress … and I mentioned, “God assist me to forgive them.”

After years of anger and resentment, Larry Park. left,made peace, forgiving his kidnappers. Right 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.  Right here he’s…with Richard Schoenfeld.

Larry Park: It modified my life. … One thing washed over me. … And there was peace like I had by no means identified.  And I knew that day that I’d be OK.

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

Jennifer Brown Hyde: I’ve had household and church household … and colleagues which have piece by piece helped put me again collectively. … And I need folks to know that that little lady that was kidnapped and buried alive has managed to dwell a beautiful life.

Michael Marshall had misplaced his method after the kidnapping.

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

He’s 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 identical. Nothing was ever the identical after that,” Jodi Heffington mentioned of the 1976 kidnapping.

CBS Information

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

Jodi Heffington: How that day affected me, has affected me day-after-day in a roundabout way or one other. … I feel it made me not an excellent daughter, not an excellent sister, not an excellent aunt and particularly not an excellent mom.  And possibly not an excellent buddy. … I attempt to be these issues, however it looks like it, um, it simply took one thing from me that I am unable to ever get again. And I am unable to tear it down — irrespective of how onerous I attempt to it doesn’t matter what I do. 

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

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 Younger 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.

#Chowchilla #bus #kidnapping #survivors #lifelong #struggle #captors #bars

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