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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Being 10 again and remembering the Chowchilla Kidnapping Ordeal:The kidnappers are deemed "suitable for parole"

I remember being ten years old in the summer of 1976, a time when walking down the street to the 7-11 or to the store for bread was an everyday occurrence. When doors didn't get locked at night and when I could sleep in my back yard and not worry about being bothered. That summer changed the lives of a small neighboring community forever. It was an ordinary day in July, summer school was in session and kids were catching the bus in the small town of Chowchilla, a central valley neighbor to Madera, surrounded by miles of agricultural land. What these carefree kids and their veteran bus driver didn't realize was this day was a day that would shake a community to its core and leave devastating effects on them for the rest of their lives. I have vague  memories of my parents and older sister being glued to the tv set as news that kids from Chowchilla and their bus driver Ed Ray had mysteriously vanished. The bus was found empty, it was not until 27 hours later that this town learned the fate of their children. This was pre-Amber Alert, pre-mutiple lines and 911. These kids and their driver had been kidnapped at gunpoint by three masked men, loaded into vans and driven into an enclosed area that turned out be a quarry owned by one of the kidnappers father. A draft of what appeared to be the ransom note for 5 million dollars was found in the quarry owners house. Frederick Woods the owners son and his partners the Schoenfeld brothers who were all in their twenties, never got through because phone lines were tied up with incoming calls to the Sheriffs from the concerned families and the community of their victims.
Ed Ray and some of the older schoolboys had escaped from the confines of vans hidden in the quarry to freedom, a freedom that would never be the same for they, and the other children who lived through this ordeal.
So here it is 35 years later and the legal system that fought so hard to put these monsters behind bars are supporting their release for parole because the lovely state of California cannot afford to house them any longer. They are deemed "suitable for parole". The now adult victims of the kidnappers have spoken with anger that they are "deemed suitable for parole". These men may get to go free, but their victims will never be free from the fear that held many of them hostage for years, irrevocably changing the course of their lives. Where are their rights? I cannot fathom how any of them have dealt with this haunting memory, I imagine being 10 again, no worries in the world , and seeing a man point a gun at  my head and being scared and hot, thirsty and hungry and wondering if my mom or dad were trying to find me.....the lasting scars that it would leave. I remember being held a little closer and hugged more in the months that followed. I pray that the survivors of this tragedy can gain a peace that they must have surely been looking for their entire lives.
The thing that pisses me off is that prisoners like the Schoenfelds' and Woods get the luxuries they do. Prisoners have too many rights! I think chain-gangs and rock soup are in order especially for criminals who perpetrate certain crimes and to me that is even too good! Some predators should just be put to death. I know I will probably offend some with my thoughts on prison reform but in my opinion when a prisoner gets more money spent on them than the family that is homeless and stays at the mission there is something wrong. Liberalism aside being in prison that long makes you learn how to be more of a criminal, people will argue that these men were young when they committed this heinous crime, and that they pose no threat to the communities that they will be released into, tell that to their victims.

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