Episode 303: The Chowchilla school bus hijacking and kidnapping, a notorious case that occurred in 1976, involved the abduction of a school bus carrying 26 children, nineteen girls and seven boys, ages 5 to 14, and their driver, Frank Edward ‘Ed’ Ray, who was 55. It was orchestrated by three young men from affluent families — brothers Richard Schoenfeld, 22, James Schoenfeld, 24, and their friend Frederick Newhall Woods IV, also twenty-four. The crime was motivated by a desire for ransom money and as a cure for their boredom. The kidnappers hid the bus and took its occupants to a buried truck trailer in a quarry in Livermore, California, intending to demand $5 million for their release. Remarkably, led by Ed Ray and Michael Marshall, 14, one of the older children, the victims managed to escape without any ransom being paid. Even though they all made it out alive, the victims suffered psychological scars that changed their lives and persist to the present day.
This was the largest kidnapping in U.S. history, and it has a Canadian connection.
After their hostages escaped, all three kidnappers went into hiding but were eventually apprehended and convicted, although one of the suspects, the mastermind behind the kidnapping, Frederick Woods, fled to Vancouver, British Columbia, before being arrested by the RCMP.
Kidnapped! At Chowchilla — The School Bus Hijacking by Gail Miller and Sandra Thompkins
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