The 1976 Chowchilla Schoolbus Kidnapping

From the Crime Library comes
the case of the Chowchilla Kidnapping where 26 students and their bus driver were kidnapped and buried alive in a moving van.

Ed Ray had stopped the school bus to see if the apparently broken-down white van needed help, and although it was a typically sultry Central California afternoon in the small town of Chowchilla, the peculiar man at the bus door was not an optical illusion caused by heat.

Two things about the stranger caught Ed’s attention: the guns he was holding and the nylon stocking stretched over his head.

Being solely responsible for the 26 children still on board, Ed opened the door, hoping to avoid the use of the firearms on either himself or one of his charges.

The strange man quickly mounted the steps inside the bus and ordered Ed to get up and move to the back of the bus. The children, ranging in age from 5 to 14, had various reactions to the appearance of the newcomer. Some thought it was a prank and giggled, while others became frightened immediately. Before they could react, and before Ed had moved down the aisle and reached the back seat, two more masked men appeared from around the back of the “stalled” van and jumped into the bus.


  1. The three should have been lined up and shot for the terror that they created in children. Children! It’s bad enough to do this to adults, but to do it to innocent children rankles me most of all.

  2. Most of my friends and aquaintances were on that bus. I would have been on that bus too if it had not been for my paper route job I had during the summer. Having that job did not allow me to attend summer school. The children
    were on their way to the town pool for a day of swimming. God bless Ed Ray (driver) and Mike Marshall(oldest kidnap victim) to help dig them out. Thanks for all the kind thoughts.

    Chowchilla resident 1973-current.

  3. I’m from Chowchilla and in the generation after the one of which these kids who were kidnapped were in. Kids my age were still scared growing up and having to take the busses. My dad was 13 and should have been on this bus. They were kidnapped ONE ROAD over from where he lived. This whole community has been affected so much by the stupidity and ignorance of three men in thier twenties who should have known better. They are trying to let Richard Schoenfeld out later this month and I’m trying as much as I can to help those people affected by this to keep him in. I’m giving a speech ans trying to start a petition to keep him in. None of the three should ever see another free day in thier lives! These 26 kids and Ed would have been DEAD from these stupid guys’ actions if he had not been able to dig them out. Most still suffer from some sort of psychological trauma. Please do all you can to keep these guys who were rich kids, trying to impress thier parents in jail. Messing with 17 lives, plus those close to them, is never a game!

  4. I was just a kid when this happened. Although I never lived anywhere near Chowchilla, I was from the San Jose area, I could not help but think that they were all kids my age. Kidnapping is the worst crime I can imagine. Why it is not punishable by death I do not know.

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