Truck trailer where 26 children were kidnapped The middle bus driver was buried alive and managed to escape.
On July 15, 1976, 26 of his schoolchildren and a bus driver from Chowchilla, California, , were kidnapped and buried alive in this tractor's trailer. I was.
} A dreadful ordeal began when children ages 5 to 14 were riding the school bus home from summer school.
Ed Ray Bus Driver
On July 16, 1976, at about 4:00 pm, three masked men armed with guns hijacked the Daileyland Elementary School bus driven by Ed Ray.
Abandoned School Bus
The kidnappers then drove the bus into a dry riverbed and hid it in a thicket of trees.
His one in the kidnapper's van
The fainted children were carried from the bus to his two vans. They were forced to jump from the bus to the van so as not to leave footprints.
Jennifer Brownhide, He was 9 years old when he was abducted and remembers what it was like inside the van. "And I felt like an animal going to the slaughterhouse."
He in a van
Inside the van, the kidnappers had constructed a makeshift cell by installing wooden panels and painting the windows. No one could see inside or out. There was no ventilation, food, water or toilets.
The kidnappers drove for nearly 12 hours as the children languished in a sweltering, pitch-black van. The van finally stopped. The kidnappers took them from Chowchilla in Livermore, California to a quarry he was 100 miles away.
One by one, bus driver Ed Ray and his children were removed from the van and thrown into a pit. They soon found themselves in an old truck, his trailer, buried 12 feet underground.
The kidnapper was making a toilet in his well of the tractor wheels of his trailer.
In the pit, the children found a container of water to drink. We also found boxes of cereal, peanut butter, and bread.
Two ventilation pipes supplied air to children trapped 12 feet underground.
Trailer Cave Roof
The children tried to keep their composure as the minutes and hours ticked by. After being in the pit for almost 12 hours, the situation started to deteriorate. The roof began to collapse and food ran out.
Bass Driver Ed Rey and 14-year-old Michael Marshall took turns pushing up the heavy manhole cover that was blocking the opening of the hole. Once they got it working, Michael began the arduous task of digging to the top.
After many grueling hours, Michael Marshall has dug himself to the top. It was 28 hours of terror. Ed Ray and his children walk towards the quarry and are greeted by stunned workers. The police soon arrived and took pictures of these children as evidence.
Long waiting time
Police have taken school bus driver Ed Rey and his children to the closest place where they can all be detained: Santa Rita, the local prison. I took him to a rehabilitation center. Jennifer Brown is pictured in the center.
Long waiting time
Santa Rita Rehabilitation Center, the children were given apples and sodas and examined by a doctor.
Ed Ray and his children were questioned by the police.
Long waiting time
The children waited patiently but wanted to go home to their families.
Survivors go home
Finally, about four hours after escaping, the children boarded yet another bus…
The survivors went home.
Now the bus was on its way back to Chowchilla.
Survivors go home
The children couldn't wait to be reunited with their families.
Worried Parents Waiting
Parents and Families Percentage of children returning to school who waited anxiously for their arrival inside Chowchilla Police Station, July 17, 1976.
Survivor aged 6 When one Larry Park came home to his parents, he said, Park is pictured in his father's arms.
Search for clues
Soon, police began searching the crime scene for clues.
Investigators exhumed a truck trailer that had been the children's catacombs in hopes of finding clues leading to the kidnappers.
media outlets around the world covered the story.
It took nearly two weeks to track everyone down, but investigators finally arrested 24-year-old Frederick Newhall Woods. They also arrested his 24-year-old James Schoenfeld (center), a partner in the used car business, and his brother Richard. All come from wealthy families in one of San Francisco's finest suburbs. A security guard said he had seen three men digging a hole in a quarry months before his abduction.
When investigators executed a warrant to search Fred Woods' father's property, they discovered a treasure trove of evidence. One of the key pieces was this document labeled "Plan". It explains how they commit kidnappings and what they do if something goes wrong.
Draft ransom note
Another key piece of evidence was this draft ransom note. A draft of the memo says the kidnapper asked him for $2.5 million, when in reality he was going to ask for $5 million. When they tried to call, they were unable to fulfill their request because the phone lines were jammed.
List of Student Names
Another key piece of evidence is the list of kidnapped children's names written on the back of the Jack in the Box wrapper. The kidnappers wrote them down while dragging the children out of the van. Investigators later found the fingerprints of two of the three kidnappers.
Kidnapper Fred Woods
The kidnappers were eventually sentenced to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole. Thirty-six years after his kidnapping, Richard Schoenfeld was released on parole in June 2012. Three years later, his older brother James was released on parole. Fred Woods, , the last kidnapper in prison, was released on parole on August 17, 2022. After 17 refusals of his, he was granted.
Survivor Jennifer Brownhide
Jennifer Brownhide is a wife, mother, and executive assistant. Until recently, she couldn't sleep without a nightlight.
Survivor Michael Marshall
Michael Marshall , age 57, father and long-distance truck driver. He has a therapy dog, Blue. He said, "I helped him before he was a year old, and now he helps me every day." 501}
Larry Park owns a handyman business and volunteers as a pastor at a local church. He says he has forgiven his kidnappers.