Chowchilla Kidnapping When justice changed all


On a peaceful day in July, fear struck many people as they heard the terrible news that 26 young children were kidnapped by three men. The parents of these children feared what would happen to their precious children, all they could do is hope. Hope that their children would escape unharmed. The Chowchilla Kidnapping has forever changed american culture.


On July 15, 1976, 27 people were traveling on a bus in Chowchilla, California. On the bus there was 26 elementary school students, ages 5 to 14, from Dairyland Elementary School, who were attending summer school. (Yan) There was also One adult on the bus, the driver, named Edward Ray. The Children were on their way from the second to last day of summer school the kids were all so happy and they were begging for summer school to go longer so they could keep having fun. On their way home, bus driver Edward Ray saw three men on the side of the road that appeared to be having car troubles, so he pulled over to see if he could help them. Those men, James and Richard Schoenfeld, and Fred Woods, didn't want help they wanted the bus full of valuable lives, valuable enough to ask for a $5 million ransom. (Yan)


Edward Ray was driving a school bus full of kids on their way home from summer school when their journey went south. Ray had pulled the bus over because there was a van stopped in the middle of the road and he thought the three men were just having car troubles, but this was just a trap, a trap to hijack the school bus full of 26 children that had loving parents that would do anything to get them home safe. (Yan) Once the bus stopped the two Schoenfeld brothers entered the bus along with Fred Woods, wearing stockings over their heads and carrying rifles. The kidnappers had full control of everyone on the bus. They started driving and drove the bus into a thicket of bamboo, where there were two vans waiting for the children and driver to be loaded into. (Yan) The kidnappers forced everyone into the vans, the windows were painted over and nobody would be able to see inside. They drove for hours. The children were miserable for what felt like forever. Nobody knew where they were going, except for the three kidnappers, they were taking the hostages to a quarry owned by the father of Fred Woods, in Livermore, California. When they arived at the quarry the children, along with Edward Ray were put into a buried moving van with no way out. There was barely enough food for one meal, the toilets were just a hole in a wooden box, there were also a few mattresses. The hostages were trapped in the buried trailer for 16 hours, until they finally escaped by moving a plate covering the opening to get out. Fred Woods and the Schoenfeld brothers were sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole, this was later changed to life in prison with the possibility of parole. (Yan)


The Chowchilla Kidnapping scared many people when it happened and still lives deep down inside of many people. The victims of the kidnapping, to this day, are impacted greatly, they weren't harmed physically, but physiologically harmed. (Daily Mail) The city leaders want to move forward from this tragedy that "put them on the map". (Appleton) Many of the people that have moved to the now growing city of Chowchilla do not know or think of what happened some 40 years ago. There are, however, a few people that have remembered this event and will forever. The story of the kidnapping has been featured on several television shows as well as a made for television movie that was shown on ABC network. This event may not be on the top of everyones mind, but for many people it will forever changed how they live and view tragedies like this, people remember this and know that similar events could happen again, which is the scariest thing for some people. (Appleton) The Chowchilla Kidnapping has forever changed american culture.



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