Parole granted to final Chowchilla college bus hijacker Frederick Woods

The final of three males convicted of hijacking a college bus filled with California youngsters for an tried $5 million ransom in 1976 in what a prosecutor referred to as “the most important mass kidnapping in U.S. historical past” is being launched by the state’s parole board.

Gov. Gavin Newsom requested the board to rethink its choice to parole Frederick Woods, 70, on Tuesday after two commissioners really helpful his launch in March when earlier panels had denied him parole 17 instances. However the board affirmed that call. The governor could not block Woods’ launch as a result of he isn’t convicted of homicide, and will solely urge the parole board to take a better look.

Woods and his two accomplices, brothers Richard and James Schoenfeld, had been from rich San Francisco Bay Space households after they kidnapped 26 youngsters and their bus driver close to Chowchilla, about 125 miles southeast of San Francisco.

Frederick Woods

California Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation

The three buried the youngsters, ages 5 to 14, together with their bus driver in an previous transferring van east of San Francisco with little air flow, mild, water, meals or toilet provides. The victims had been in a position to dig their manner out greater than a day later.

“As a younger child, you do not have plenty of sense of time. … There was no daylight,” survivor Jennifer Brown Hyde instructed “48 Hours” in 2019. “So, you could not inform if it was day or evening. … We had been out of meals, we had been out of water, the roof was caving in…. It simply was a determined scenario.”

Woods, who was 24 on the time, grew to become an individual of curiosity within the case after police linked him to the quarry the place the van had been buried — his father owned the place.

Officers then searched Woods’ father’s property and located a mountain of proof, together with a draft ransom word, “48 Hours” reported.

Arrest warrants had been issued. Richard Schoenfeld turned himself in, however Woods and James Schoenfeld fled California. As soon as they had been all arrested, they pleaded responsible to a number of costs, however refused to plead responsible to the eight counts of bodily hurt, which might ship them to jail for all times, in keeping with “48 Hours.”

Tragic accident takes the lifetime of a Chowchilla bus kidnapping survivor


They had been all, nonetheless, discovered responsible on all costs and sentenced to life in jail with out the potential of parole.

In 1980, state Decide William Newsom, who was the present governor’s father, was on an appellate panel that lowered the lads’s life sentences to provide them an opportunity at parole. He pushed for his or her launch in 2011, after he retired, noting that nobody was critically bodily injured throughout the kidnapping.

An appeals court docket ordered Richard launched in 2012 and then-Gov. Jerry Brown paroled James in 2015.

Nonetheless, Newsom stated Woods “continued to interact in monetary related-misconduct in jail,” utilizing a contraband cellphone to supply recommendation on operating a Christmas tree farm, a gold mining enterprise and a automobile dealership

Woods’ conduct “continues to show that he’s concerning the cash,” Madera County District Lawyer Sally Moreno stated in opposing his parole. And in 2019, Sheriff Ed Bates instructed “48 Hours” he thought Woods was “a sociopath.”

From left, Fred Woods, James Schoenfeld, heart, and his youthful brother Richard Schoenfeld

Alameda County Sheriff’s Workplace

Moreno stated after the choice that she was offended and annoyed “as a result of justice has been mocked in Madera County” and he or she fears for the state of society “if you happen to can kidnap a busload of faculty youngsters, abandon them buried alive and nonetheless get out of jail after committing that crime and spending your time in jail flouting the regulation.”

Woods wasn’t eligible to attend in individual on Tuesday, however stated throughout his parole listening to in March that he felt he wanted cash to have acceptance from his mother and father and “was egocentric and immature at the moment,” whereas his more moderen violations had been to learn the belief fund left to him by his late mother and father.

“I did not want the cash. I needed the cash,” Woods stated of the ransom try.

His lawyer, Dominique Banos, stated Wednesday that the parole board acknowledged that Woods “has proven a change in character for the great” and “stays a low threat, and as soon as launched from jail he poses no hazard or risk to the neighborhood.”

Three former inmates who served time with Woods urged parole officers to free him, whereas 4 victims or their kin stated Woods’ misbehavior in jail exhibits he nonetheless views himself as privileged. A number of of Woods’ victims have beforehand supported his launch.

Behind the 1976 Chowchilla mass kidnapping


Lynda Carrejo Labendeira, who was 10 on the time, recalled how the youngsters struggled to flee as a flashlight and candles flickered out whereas “the makeshift, dungeonous coffin was caving in.”

“I do not get to decide on the random flashbacks each time I see a van just like the one which we had been transported in,” she instructed the board.

“Insomnia retains me up all hours of the evening,” she stated. “I do not sleep in order that I haven’t got to have any nightmares in any respect.”

Jennifer Brown Hyde, who was 9 on the time, recalled “the lifetime results of being buried alive and being pushed round in a van for 11 hours with no meals, water or a rest room in over 100-degree climate.”

“His thoughts continues to be evil and he’s out to get what he desires,” she instructed the board. “I need him to serve life in jail, simply as I served a lifetime of coping with the PTSD because of his sense of entitlement.”

She stated Wednesday that her household is dissatisfied, however it’s “time to shut this chapter and proceed dwelling the blessed life I’ve been given.” She praised her fellow hostages as “true survivors and never victims.”

Man convicted in Chowchilla kidnapping of 26 youngsters denied parole


Newsom acknowledged that Woods is eligible for consideration each as a result of he was simply 24 when he dedicated the crime and since he’s aged now. He stated Woods, who as soon as studied policing at a neighborhood faculty, has additionally taken steps to enhance himself in jail.

Within the 2019 “48 Hours” particular, different survivors spoke concerning the psychological impacts of the kidnapping.

Larry Park instructed CBS Information’ David Begnaud he grew to become an offended baby after the kidnapping. His mother and father, fearing he was able to violence, positioned him in a facility for youth offenders when he was 15. 

“By the point I used to be 21, I used to be utilizing meth,” he stated. “I used to be smoking crack. I used to be doing acid.  … And I used to be simply offended.”

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