Jimmy’s Story

Jimmy’s Story

On Monday, September 11, 1995, around 3 in the afternoon, 9-year-old Samuel James “Jimmy” Ryce got off his school bus and began to walk home, just four houses down on the same side of the street from his school bus stop. A man pulled a truck in front of Jimmy blocking his way.

The man jumped out of the truck, pointed a gun at Jimmy, and said, “do you want to die?”

Jimmy made his first mistake when he did not immediately turn and run to the nearest safe place. His second mistake was in not screaming to attract help and maybe scare off the predator.

By letting the man engage him in conversation, answering the question “do you want to die?” with a unequivocal “No,” Jimmy let the man get close enough to grab his shirt. So, Jimmy’s third mistake was in not keeping outside grabbing distance, and his fourth was in not fighting to break free.

Jimmy’s worst mistake was in allowing himself to be forced into the confined space of the car, instead of struggling free and running to the nearest safe place. Jimmy wrongly thought, “I’d better go with him, or he’ll shoot me. I’ll try to get away later when he’s not pointing a gun at me.”

The man pulled Jimmy to the driver’s side of the truck and pushed him in, saying “Then, get in the car. Squat on the floor, so nobody’ll see you.” Jimmy was so scared he took off his heavy backpack and held it in front of himself like a shield.

jimmy-ryceJimmy Ryce would be alive today if he had been taught that his innocence and, indeed, his very life depended on his getting away from the sexual predator before he got Jimmy alone with him in a secured place where no one would hear his cries for help.

That Jimmy was still trying to assess his risk and what he should do is apparent in the questions he asked his abductor at the abandoned trailer where he was taken, about a mile from his school bus stop and home.

Jimmy asked his captor, “why did you take me?” “Why do you think?” the man snarled. Jimmy, most likely, thought he stole him to have him for a son or a little brother. The man spent the next four hours showing Jimmy why he took him as he sexually assaulted and tortured Jimmy.

When Jimmy asked, “are you going to kill me,” the man did not answer, refusing to reassure Jimmy.

Even after hours of pain and humiliation, Jimmy still had enough heart to try to escape. Jimmy got the door open and was going through the door when the man shot him.

Jimmy’s mother had told Jimmy never to get in the car with anyone, not even a neighbor, unless she had given him permission to ride with that person that day. The result of this safety rule was that Jimmy had turned down rides with neighbors, walking instead the 2/10ths of a mile from his school bus stop to his home.

Jimmy’s mother never thought to tell him what to do if someone tried to force him into a car at gunpoint. She is confidant that Jimmy would have turned and ran if she had thought to tell Jimmy this: “The safest thing for you to do if anyone tries to force you into a car at gunpoint is to run to the nearest safe place.”

As counterintuitive as it seems, if someone is trying to force a child into a car at gunpoint, the best thing for the child to do is run to the nearest safe place. A sexual predator is unlikely to shoot a fleeing, screaming child because he does not want to get caught. Besides, unlike a drive-by shooter, a sadistic pedophile does not get his jollies by shooting a kid. He enjoys hurting the child, once he has the child in a secure place, in whatever way he wants, for as long as he pleases.

Jimmy’s mother read her son’s killer’s detailed confession about what happened to Jimmy. She tried to figure out if there was anything she could have done to prevent Jimmy’s being taken. She determined she could have picked Jimmy up at school or walked him home from his school bus stop everyday. She decided she should have taught Jimmy to run to the nearest safe place if someone tries to get him in a car, even if the person is pointing a gun at him.

In her 1996 study of what happened to Jimmy, the first of Jimmy Ryce’s Great Escape Maneuvers, Jimmy’s GEMs were born. If Jimmy had executed some of these GEMs, he might have escaped from the sexual predator: Be Alert to Surroundings, Don’t Get within Grabbing Distance of a Stopped Car, Run to the Nearest Safe Place, Scream to Attract Help and Scare the Predator Away, Fight to Break Free.

Read the other true abduction stories in this Abduction section of the jimmyryce.org website. The real names of the children are not given, unless the parents of the abducted children have given the Jimmy Ryce Center written permission to use their child’s real name and picture. It is their hope that seeing a real kid’s face and knowing his or her horrible fate will convince parents and kids this could happen to them. Their hope is that by identifying what their child might have done to get away from the sexual predator, other children can save themselves from similar molestation or death.

By acting out each abduction using Jimmy Ryce’s Great Escape Maneuvers, Jimmy’s GEMs™, kids can practice performing the great escape maneuvers most likely to enable them to get away from sexual predators. Kinetic learning embeds the best responses so deeply in the psyche that it becomes almost an automatic response.

All kids need to know Jimmy Ryce’s GEMs, as it is a lot better to be prepared, to have thought out and practiced what to do beforehand, than it is to be put on the spot like Jimmy was and have to decide what it is best to do, on the spur of a moment, smack dab in the middle of a crisis.

When Jimmy was a baby, his mother used to sing him a song she made up, punning on his name Jim and precious gems, like diamonds, rubies, emeralds, calling him her precious Jim/gem. Jimmy Ryce’s GEMs are more valuable than precious gems. Kids enriched with Jimmy Ryce’s GEMs may one day ransom themselves from a dangerous predatory situation by expending one or more of Jimmy Ryce’s GEMs.

The most important thing parents can do is encourage their child to practice foiling the predator’s evil plans. Only an adult, of course, should play the role of the sexual predator. Kids of all ages need to practice screaming to attract help, breaking away from the hold of the predator, turning and running zizzagedly away from the predator, performing any great escape maneuver which might empower the child to escape from the predator.

To prepare to discuss with children what situations might be predatory, read Kenneth Wooden’s book Child Lures: What Every Parent and Child Should Know About Preventing Sexual Abuse and Abduction (1995). Wooden identifies adult behavior which may be predatory and, even if innocent, is inappropriate adult behavior as it asks a child to risk placing himself/herself in danger.

Always be sure to emphasize that a predator smart kid is a predator resistant kid. Children’s storing the treasure of Jimmy Ryce’s GEMs in their minds have GEM power. Let the children shout, “Nobody’s going to steal me! “I’ve got GEM power.”


  1. Susan Cole Author November 5, 2014 (3:02 am)

    My daughter was missing for 6 weeks , I thought I would die. Everyday I would wake up thinking today she will be found. We did find her alive and well thanks be to God! When I watched this story the other day I cried through the whole thing.. I so so very sorry for your loss, you and your family will be in my prayers.

    Reply to Susan Cole
    • Reggie S Author November 17, 2014 (1:46 am)

      So glad you found your daughter alive! How old is she? I hope she is doing well

      Reply to Reggie S
  2. Debie Author August 7, 2015 (12:24 pm)

    Reading this breaks my heart. Although this is every parents worse nightmare, not enough is being done. You, through this foundation, are changing lives through your most horrific loss. How can others help? Are you in need of funding to provide educational programs to every elementary school in the country? Let’s get this done! There are no words to describe the nightmare you live and not enough thanks to give to how you have let it turn your life to dedicating yourselves to help save others.

    Reply to Debie
  3. haley Massa Author December 31, 2015 (4:23 pm)

    This is very sad ????. I cried through thr whole thing.. Sorry for your loss and i had an issue similar , my 4 year old was playing in our front yard as her dad was washing the car and a drive by basically happened . an ice cream truck asked if she wanted free ice cream and well R.I.P leian ???????????? sorry for your loss anyways..

    Reply to haley Massa
  4. Shannon Author January 12, 2016 (3:21 pm)

    Reading this has made me aware that i need to speak to my 5 year old daughter about what to do if someone tries to force her.. to scream and to run. THNAK YOU

    Reply to Shannon
  5. Sherri Perez Author February 25, 2016 (7:24 am)

    I just happened to come across this site and reading the story of Jimmy’s last day brought back the sadness. I remember the whole horror and recall right where I was and what I was doing when Jimmy’s fate was announced . Jimmy’s story is every parents nightmare. Teaching our children awareness and prevention is very important and key to their safety. Thank you for your efforts to help other children.

    Reply to Sherri Perez
  6. PJ Author April 15, 2016 (12:23 am)

    I began reading because I was searching for info to refresh my memory on the “Jimmy Ryce” story. I could not get through more than the first four paragraphs. As I began reading all I kept coming up with was, “what Jimmy didn’t do or should have done or should have thought”. He was 9 years old! Full grown adults can’t even think their ways out of some of the most rudimentary situations. I don’t think it was the writer’s intent to give this impression but, I could not continue reading. Sorry, Thank you. I’m so sad that this happened.

    Reply to PJ
  7. Amanda Author September 3, 2016 (3:47 pm)

    I agree with the above written comment by PJ. The sweet innocent boy was scared to death! He didn’t do anything wrong. I too, couldn’t continue reading even though I don’t think the author meant it this way. Its so very unfortunate what happened to this poor boy and his family. I am so sorry. May God bring you peace and comfort.

    Reply to Amanda
  8. Cristina Author September 29, 2016 (1:26 am)

    I remember Jimmy Ryce posters all over Miami on every steer light grocery store gas station. It was so scary & I remember all the parents were scared because of how close to his house it was. Now as a parent it’s even more scary & makes me want to talk to my kids about it even more. I have always referred to this story when telling my kids not to talk to strangers. I will definitely use Jimmy’s GEMs. It is not his fault he wasn’t well prepared for this situation. It could’ve happened to anyone. Even if he was prepared, he could’ve still gotten scared at the sight of a gun. He was after all just a 9 year old boy. RIP Jimmy Ryce.

    Reply to Cristina
  9. Rammdom Author November 19, 2016 (10:22 pm)

    I think most of the comments focusing on ‘being unable to get through the story because it mentioned what Jimmy could’ve done’ is almost asinine. The author is very simply trying to exhibit actions that can be avoided and lessons learned if we teach each other precautionary rules. Of course he was just a child, scared and didn’t do anything wrong. The story was not in any way blaming Jimmy, it’s ridiculous to even think that it was their implication and you’re missing the point of the author. CLEARLY it’s to get the message out there and tell the precautionary story and point out what the ‘ideal’ actions ANYONE OF US can take. Especially, to teach this to children just as we teach them not do drugs, drink and drive etc.. NOONE knows how ANYONE of us, whether we’re 9 or 90 years old would react in such a horrific unexpected moment. But the more we get these stories, lessons and precautions taught and learned, Especially to children, the better chance any of us can have. Horrific situation but lessons are always learned and God bless his family for what they are doing. Not sure if this is taught in schools and if it isn’t it absolutely should. Though ultimately lessons should start at home, but we know not all children are fortunate to have a good home base either, but that’s another topic.

    Reply to Rammdom
    • Krista Author March 27, 2018 (12:35 pm)

      You said that very well. I understand that the author could have possibly worded it differently to make their point clearer for those who may not fully comprehend their intent, BUT they’re not placing blame one bit on the victim. It’s a touchy subject so it’s easy to offend but the author was being blunt because this is an example that should be used as a wake up call. Sure worked for me as I’ll be speaking to my daughter later. For the family to try and make good out of tragedy and evil is something beautiful. God bless them and RIP baby boy.

      Reply to Krista
  10. Marbeli Author September 29, 2017 (4:32 pm)

    I remember Jimmy rice. My son was so sad crying,his friend at the same class room.at N E school.

    Reply to Marbeli
    • Valerie A Collier Author January 30, 2018 (8:13 pm)

      Hi Marbeli,
      although I was the driver of the bus, I never knew the whole story behind Jimmy Ryce’s abduction, I was told that i was the blame for his abduction and was treated like garbage, the officers were so rude to me , even when I went to court they treated me like I was the criminal, one thing that i remember positive about this thing is the director of the bus facility told me that I did my job and I continue to drive for dade-county until 2003 when I relocated to another state, no one knew what i went through, i never received counseling or anything, i became over protected when it came to my own children. The only reason is this story has resurfaced in my life is because I have seen incidents where parents are losing their kids to the same situation. I never new that this man was executed or nothing,
      You may never get to read this but now I can finally sleep and not see his face knowing that his killer is gone for good, Rest in Heaven Jimmy Ryce!

      Reply to Valerie A Collier
      • Krista Author March 27, 2018 (12:44 pm)

        I’m sorry for what you went through. No one is blame except the monster who did this atrocity. I’m glad you can now move on. While his family’s lives where destroyed, we often forget the sheer # of all those affected by such horrendous crimes. Thank u for sharing.

        Reply to Krista
      • Deborah Kennedy Author September 14, 2020 (1:41 am)

        I’m so so sorry you went through this….you were not treated well at all!! Of course it wasn’t your fault!! I’m glad you moved away and have made a fresh start.
        With time, things have changed for the better on how these horrible things are handled. I’m sorry this wasn’t the case for you.
        Take Care

        Reply to Deborah Kennedy
      • sue p Author September 27, 2021 (2:32 pm)

        So sorry people made you feel like that. You did your job and nothing was your fault! How could you have known a monster was around?

        Reply to sue p
  11. Jaquina Riggs Author March 4, 2018 (11:19 pm)

    Jimmy was my friend. We we’re in the same classroom, and we rode the same school bus. I’ll NEVER forget that day or him. This was heartbreaking for all of us.

    Reply to Jaquina Riggs
  12. Lavy Author March 25, 2018 (11:08 pm)

    Don Ryce and the way he speaks of his family and little Jimmy, touched my heart. I see a fathers pain and the wasted love of a good man for his son. There is nothing sadder. I pray that sweet little Jimmy is now in peace, enjoying all the love he gets from his family even now. I hope Don finds peace too. I will definitely support this org. all the best

    Reply to Lavy
  13. Mayu Author May 31, 2019 (10:06 am)

    I have dedicated my career in catching pedophiles like Juan Carlos Chavez. I will always protect my children and everyone else’s to be best of my abilities. I will never give up doing this for every parent who is reading this. I catch every men and woman including young adults who enjoy having sex with children. I wish I had a time machine to bring Jimmy back and every other child that has suffer such tragedy. My condolences to this family. Hope mom, son and daughter are in heaven together once again. My prayers to Mr. Don Ryce for dealing with such horrific pain and still is. Had the pleasure on meeting him last week. To all mothers and fathers on this threat. Please talk to your children. Teach them from toddlers what their private parts are and to never ever leave with anyone unless you have approved verbally to them. Have a passcode. I had that with my child as a little girl. Monitor their cell phones and most important educate them with the cruel world we live in. Never ever send your child alone to public bathrooms. Take them yourself no matter if they are 10-13. I have heard horrors occurred to little girls and boys around Jimmys age. Pay the extra money for a private school bus to make sure you child gets dropped off at your door step. Have a buddy system. So much we can do. May God bless everyone on this threat.

    Reply to Mayu
  14. Sherry Author November 16, 2022 (10:45 am)

    Like most here, I cried reading this. I was familiar with this story years ago but every time I read it again, I just cry. I now have two boys and they are my world so when I think of Jimmy, I think of them. I am glad that you’ve decided to help protect other children. May God continue to cover you and your family. Jimmy gained his wings many years ago and you will be able to reconnect with him at some point.

    Reply to Sherry

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