Man Who Kidnapped Bus Full Of Children & Buried Them Alive In 1976 Granted Parole After 17 Tries
The last of three men convicted of hijacking a school bus full of California children for an attempted $5 million ransom in 1976 — in what a prosecutor called “the largest mass kidnapping in U.S. history” — is being released by the state’s parole board.
Gov. Gavin Newsom asked the board to reconsider its decision to parole Frederick Woods, 70, on Tuesday.
Two board members recommended his release in March when previous panels had denied him parole 17 times. But the board affirmed that decision. Woods and his two accomplices, brothers Richard and James Schoenfeld, were from wealthy San Francisco Bay Area families when they kidnapped 26 children and their bus driver near Chowchilla. The town is about 125 miles (201 kilometers) southeast of San Francisco.
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The three buried the children, ages 5 to 14, along with their bus driver in an old moving van east of San Francisco with little ventilation, light, water, food or bathroom supplies. The victims were able to dig their way out more than a day later.
Newsom said Woods “continued to engage in financial related-misconduct in prison,” using a contraband cellphone to offer advice on running a Christmas tree farm, a gold mining business and a car dealership. The governor couldn’t block Woods’ release because he’s not convicted of murder, and could only urge the parole board to take a closer look.
Woods’ behavior “continues to demonstrate that he is about the money,” Madera County District Attorney Sally Moreno said in opposing his parole.
Moreno said after the decision that she was angry and frustrated “because justice has been mocked in Madera County,” and she fears for the state of society “if you can kidnap a busload of school children, abandon them buried alive and still get out of prison after committing that crime and spending your time in prison flouting the law.
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