Chowchilla Kidnapping

Who remembers the Chowchilla kidnapping back in the 70s?  Apparently the judge, prosecutors and investigators who worked on the case support release of the kidnappers on parole.  When I first read the article about it a few weeks ago I thought, are they crazy?  Those three guys kidnapped a bus full of children and buried them alive in a rock quarry.  They are not only heartless and cruel but they struck fear in children all over California. 

I was 10 years old when the kidnapping happened.  I remember the night the children were found.  We were having dinner at the home of our family friends, “Lisa and Lynda’s” I used to say because Lisa and Lynda were my best friends.  All us kids were watching TV when the news broke.  At first it was just boring news.  We heard strange and disturbing sounding words like Chowchilla and kidnapping.  But then we heard words we recognized like children, school bus and Livermore and suddenly the news wasn’t so boring.  The news was scary and it was telling us that kidnappers were loose in Livermore. 

Since it was the middle of July my first concern was obvious: What were these kids doing on a school bus in the middle of summer vacation?  Lisa suggested that perhaps the Chowchilla kids were going to summer school and she confirmed this possibility by pointing out that she and her sister Lynda rode a school bus to summer camp.  I silently thanked God that my mother did not send us to summer camp and 35 years later I still wonder if Lisa and Lynda got on the summer camp bus the next day.  I know I sure as hell wouldn’t. 

The rock quarry the children were found in was in Livermore less than a mile from our house.  On warm summer nights when I had my bedroom window open I could hear the trucks and machinery and the sounds of rocks dumping at the quarry.  That night when we got home from Lisa and Lynda’s my dad walked through our dark house, turning on all the lights and peaking in our bedrooms.  Even as a kid I knew the possibility of kidnappers hiding in our house was slim but the fact that my father double checked still feels comforting today.  And for the rest of that Livermore summer I kept my bedroom window sealed shut. 

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10 Responses to Chowchilla Kidnapping

  1. Neal says:

    This happened right before I came to Livermore, although I lived in Hayward at the time I really don’t remember it.

  2. Tom Mason says:

    I clearly remember remember the day the story broke. I was married, 25-yrs old, with two small children. In Bakersfield, CA(in the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley) the mood was much like it was when President Kennedy was assassinated. Total shock and disbelief! As it played out, it became clear that instead of ruthless career criminals-the kidnappers were wealthy middle-class young men. My feeling at the time was that the kidnappers should be executed!!! For the victims and their families I can only suppose that some probably have had post-traumatic stress issues lasting even until this day. For some reason I’ve continued over the years to think often about the kidnappers and their victims. The young men did not kill anyone, and the buried van had been installed with an air vent (although the risk they took with the victims was reckless to the extreme). I believe 35-years is enough time provided they meet all of the conditions for parole.

    • Lady Jessop says:

      I never knew the full story until just recently. I grew up believing those two guys were crazed kidnappers out to get children. That’s why I was so surprised people were in support of letting them go.

    • Larry Park says:

      The problem I have with them being paroled is that they never miss an oppertunity to minamize what they did that day. They have never accepted the fact that they hurt us. Maybe not physically, but emotionally I was destroyed. I do suffer PTSD to this day and am on psych meds and anit-anxiety meds. In Richard Schoenfelds most recent plea to the state supreme court, he said we escaped without harm. Proof that he isn’t willing to take full ownership of what he’s done.

  3. Lisa Lee says:

    Does the quarry still exist that was used in this crime and where is it?

    Does the defendants father / family still own that quarry ?

  4. Larry Park says:

    I remember the day very well. I was six years old when they took our bus. Lady Jessop, if you would like the full story of what happened underground and in the backs of the vans and a look into the life of one of the children after the kidnapping, my book of the events is available at and on amazon. Thank you for having interest in this story.

    • Lady Jessop says:

      Larry, so sorry that you were one of the victims in this strange story. What a terrifying experience! I have sent a copy of your book to my Kindle and will let you know my thoughts. Peace be with you my friend!

  5. Christine says:

    I was 6 when this event happened. I happen to be one of the lucky ones. I went to school that day and got on the bus to go home. My mother got on the bus and said” get off I have to take you to the doctor”, well when we returned my neighbor, who I played with everyday after school was not at home and her mother was asking if I saw her on the bus. My mom explained that she had to take me off the bus and she had seen her on the bus. Then we started to realize, that all the children on the block never got off the bus. It was minutes before all of this tragedy unfolded. All of my friends were missing and everyone was standing around in disbalief. To this day, 35 years later it is a memory burned into me. I still feel horrible for the parents that were scared to death for thier children and so sad that the children who are adults now have to have that as a childhood memory. My hearts will always be with you.

  6. Peggy Slider says:

    I am constantly amazed at how people can truly injure one another and then because the scars aren’t obviously visible to the world deny that injury happened! I was living in San Diego during the Tate murders …. Manson and his followers terrified thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of people …. but rarely do we consider the long term effects or the collateral damage! May each of you find peace … may those who have wronged you find recognition and regret!

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