Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Chowchilla Kidnapping

Going North

After leaving the Bay Area, Fred and Jim decided to go to Canada. Because they had so many supplies and equipment crammed into the one car they had fled in, it was decided that Jim would drive across the border and Fred would fly to Vancouver from Reno, check into a cheap hotel, and then wait for Jim to make the drive north.

Once settled in Vancouver, Fred would go to the main post office twice each day at predetermined times to rendezvous with Jim, who would go to the same post office at the first opportunity after his arrival.

Fred arrived in the evening of July 17th.  He easily passed through immigration and, after registering at a Vancouver hotel under a false name, settled down to wait for Jim.

After a long drive, on the evening of the July 18th, Jim approached the Canadian border in northern Idaho.  When questioned, he told the border guard that he was driving up to visit a friend who lived near Edmonton and then would possibly head east to Montreal to see some of the summer Olympics. The guard felt that Jim seemed to be making up parts of the story and the fact that Jim carried very little money for a journey of that magnitude caused him to refuse Jim entry.

Frustrated and wanting a good meal and some sleep, Jim turned the car around and headed west.

A couple of days went by and Fred waited in Vancouver, checking in at the post office at the agreed times. Jim was taking a long time.

Back in California, Rick anxiously listened to the news that was rapidly announcing more and more of the discovered details of the crime.  Eventually Fred was identified by name as someone the law wanted to talk to, but the media made no mention of him or his brother.   Yet.

Monday, July 19, found Jim in Spokane, pawning some of the contents of the packed car.  Believing that his lack of money was the sole reason he had been turned away from the border in Idaho, he felt confident with more cash in his pocket.  This time when he reached the border, the guards did a more thorough search of the car and found a pistol, one of Fred's that Jim wasn't aware was in the car. Thankful that he was not charged with attempting to bring firearms into the country, Jim was refused entry again and he headed back to Idaho.

The following day, in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, he abandoned the car after pawning more of its cache.  He purchased a run-down truck and aimlessly headed back towards Washington.

After five days of waiting, Fred wondered if Jim would ever arrive.  He was using an alias, so the news that the authorities were looking for "Frederick Woods" didn't disturb him.

On July 23rd, Fred and Jim were both startled to hear that Rick had surrendered and was being held in lieu of $1 million bail.

According to Baugh and Morgan, this information made Jim give up his flight and he turned his truck towards home. When he arrived back in the Bay Area on Sunday, he didn't know what to do.  He was afraid of going home, to call anyone, or to go directly to the police.  Driving over to the Pacific Ocean, he camped on a local beach for a couple of days to try to figure out what to do.

In Vancouver, Fred wrote a letter to an old friend in California. Fred told the friend not to let anyone know he had received Fred's letter and to write him back, using Fred's alias, at the Vancouver Post Office.  On receipt of Fred's letter, the friend quickly passed it on to the FBI who alerted the law enforcement in Vancouver to watch for Fred at the main post office.

On the morning of July 29, Jim was driving towards his family home when he was recognized by another driver who had seen his photo in the newspaper.  The other driver sped down a freeway off-ramp where, by chance, some policeman happened to be parked.  The driver quickly told his story and described the truck Jim was driving and Jim was tracked down and arrested.

On the same day, a Vancouver post office clerk alerted nearby police that a man using Fred's alias had asked about incoming mail, and Fred, too, was quickly apprehended.

On the 14th day after the kidnapping, much of the key evidence had been gathered and the three perpetrators were now in custody.

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