Jennifer Brown Hyde: Where is the Chowchilla Survivor Now?

The 1976 kidnapping of 26 students and their bus driver in Chowchilla, California, remains a huge topic of interest to the people, given just how much attention it brought to the topic of mental health of survivors of traumatic experiences. Max’s ‘Chowchilla’ features individuals like Jennifer Brown Hyde, who was one of the young kids to have been abducted by the people behind the nefarious scheme. This has led many people to wonder just where the survivor of the kidnapping is these days.

Who is Jennifer Brown Hyde?

A resident of the peaceful city of Chowchilla, Jennifer Brown Hyde was nine years old on July 15, 1986, when she boarded the bus that would take her home from summer school. Also on the bus was her brother Jeff Brown, and the siblings relied on each other when they soon found themselves in an unprecedented situation. 26 students on the drive of the bus, Edward “Ed” Ray, were kidnapped by three men who had hoped to ransom $5 million from the state.

All the kidnapping victims had actually been transported to a secluded area where they were told to get down a hole into a makeshift and compact living area. The hole was then covered up using a manhole cover before further covering, and dirt was piled on top. For the 9-year-old Jennifer, the experience was nothing sort of traumatizing as she kept wondering just what would happen to her and her brother next. Thanks to the efforts made by Ed Ray and Michael “Mike” Marshall, along with some assistance from the children, the victims were able to escape their prison and seek help.

As one might expect, the Brown family reunion was nothing short of emotional. While Jennifer and her brother were physically unharmed for the most part, one could not help but wonder how they would cope with it mentally in the upcoming days, despite claims from many people that the children would surely be able to “bounce back.” However, as shared by Jennifer and many of her fellow survivors, the survivors struggled to come to terms with the reality for a very long time.

“When we got home, I thought everything would be OK,” Jennifer Brown shared in the Max movie. “I can remember having nightmares immediately. My mom tells me I started sleepwalking, and I would just come into their room in shock, and I would tell them, ‘They’re killing me.’ ” She confessed how she found solace in her faith and religion. However, she could not help but feel betrayed when her brother Jeff died about five years after the fateful kidnapping during an accident on the family farm while working with his father.

Jennifer Brown Hyde is Now a Grandma

Though a star student at her school, Jennifer confessed that she hated the attention that was directed her way following her brother’s passing. Though she was already uncomfortable with her status as the Chowchilla survivor, the world’s increased interest in the Brown family severely affected their lives. Jennifer’s parents ended up divorcing following Jeff Brown’s death, and her mother made the decision that she and Jennifer would move away from Chowchilla, something that Jennifer accepted with relief, even if it meant starting a new life.

Since then, Jennifer seems to have built a good life for herself. She confessed in the movie how she had been happy that her three kidnappers had been initially sentenced to life without parole and was highly upset when the sentence was changed to include the possibility of parole. As of writing, all three kidnappers, Fredrick Woods, James Schoenfeld, and Richard Schoenfeld, are out on parole, something that Jennifer has openly opposed, documenting even in court how the mental suffering and the harsh conditions that she had to live through should not be neglected in the case simply because the kidnappers had not caused any evident physical harm.

Image Credit: Jennifer Brown Hyde/Facebook

On a more personal note, Jennifer does seem to be doing well and enjoying familial love as much as possible. She is happily married to her trucker husband and has two sons, one of whom has even served in the US Armed Forces. Quite recently, her family has welcomed her granddaughter into their lives, and Jennifer is ecstatic to be a grandmother. Based in Nashville, Tennesse, Jennifer remembers her experience during the kidnapping vividly, but she also seems to take much heart in all that she has been able to achieve in her life.

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