Jodi Heffington, one of the victims of the Chowchilla kidnapping, talked to 48 Hours about the tragedy and its impact on her life. In 1976, Richard Schoenfeld, James Schoenfeld, and Fred Woods took control of a school bus ferrying twenty-six kids and their bus driver home. 

“This man came up with a stocking over his head with a gun and said ‘open the door’… I never been around guns. You only see bad guys in the movies with stockings on, so I knew it wasn’t good… He held a shotgun to my stomach… I thought he was going to shoot me,” Jodi said

Jodi Heffington died in late January 2021; her cause of death remains a mystery

Jodi Heffington died on 30th January 2021 of an unknown cause. She left behind her son, Matthew Medrano, her brother and his wife, and many nephews and nieces. 

She spent the final years of her life fighting against the release of the Chowchilla kidnappers. Fred, Richard, and James, hailing from wealthy families, were sentenced to life with the likelihood of parole. “Every time one of the kidnappers came up for parole, it triggered their fears and traumas,” assistant district attorney Jill Klinge said

Jodi attended nearly all parole hearings. “It’s excruciating, and the aftermath is never good,” Jodi described testifying at the parole hearings. She watched as the parole board granted Richard and James parole; Fred was released a year and a half after Jodi’s death. 

It probably didn’t seem fair to Jodi that the people who inflicted lifelong mental anguish on twenty-six children could walk free. Jodi and other victims suffered seemingly unending trauma. At the time, people erroneously assumed that a trip to Disneyland would overshadow the bad memories of the abduction. 

“How that day affected me has affected me every day in some way or another. I think it made me not a good daughter, not a good sister, not a good aunt, and especially not a good mother.”

“It seems like, it just took something from me that I can’t ever get back. And I can’t tear down … no matter how hard I try and no matter what I do.”