Man Who Kidnapped 26 Children Approved for Parole

Fred Woods still has a long road ahead, however
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 29, 2022 12:03 AM CDT
Abductor in US' Largest-Ever Kidnapping Approved for Parole
This July 24, 1976, photo shows the inside of the van that was used as a prison for the 26 kidnapped Chowchilla school children and their bus driver in Livermore, Calif.   (AP Photo/Jim Palmer, File)

The last of the three men still imprisoned for the 1976 Northern California kidnapping of a bus full of children was approved for parole at a Friday hearing by a two-person panel. The full parole board, the board's legal division, and Gov. Gavin Newsom must now approve Frederick Woods' parole before he can be released, CNN reports. Woods, along with Richard and James Schoenfeld, hijacked a school bus on its route to drive kids home from school in Chowchilla, kidnapping the 26 children and driver onboard, transferring them to vans, and driving them around for 12 hours, CBS News reports. The 27 were placed in a moving truck that was then buried in a quarry in Livermoore, more than 100 miles from Chowchilla. All survived, digging their way out and escaping after 16 hours held captive, while their abductors were asleep.

The Schoenfelds and Woods, who were trying to get $5 million in ransom money and had apparently been inspired by the film Dirty Harry, pleaded guilty and each received 27 life sentences without the possibility of parole, but an appeals court overturned that sentence, ruling that they should be eligible for parole. Richard Schoenfeld was paroled in 2012 and James Schoenfeld three years later. This is Woods' 18th parole hearing since becoming eligible in 1982. "I've had empathy for the victims which I didn't have then. I've had a character change since then," Woods said Friday. "I was 24 years old. Now I fully understand the terror and trauma I caused. I fully take responsibility for this heinous act." Two of the kidnapping survivors supported Woods' being paroled, while multiple others opposed. (Read more California stories.)

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