Parole recommended for inmate in 1976 Chowchilla school bus abduction – GV Wire
SACRAMENTO — California parole boarders recommended on Friday the parole of the last of three men convicted of hijacking a Chowchilla school bus full of children for a $5 million ransom in 1976.
The two commissioners decided that Frederick Woods, now 70, was no longer a danger to the public after previous panels denied him parole on 17 occasions.
The parole recommendation could still be rejected by Governor Gavin Newsom.
Woods’ accomplices, brothers Richard and James Schoenfeld, were freed years ago. An appeals court ordered Richard Schoenfeld’s release in 2012 and former Governor Jerry Brown granted James Schoenfeld parole in 2015.
All three were from wealthy San Francisco Bay Area families when they abducted 26 children and the Dairyland Elementary School bus driven by Ed Ray near Chowchilla.
They buried the children, ages 5 to 14, along with their bus driver in a ventilated underground bunker east of San Francisco. The victims were able to make their way more than a day later.
Woods reads an apology to the hearing
Woods read an apology for his crime, according to a Friday courtroom report by CBS News producer George Osterkamp.
“I had empathy for the victims that I didn’t have then,” Woods said. “I’ve had a character change since then.”
“I was 24,” he added. “Now I fully understand the terror and trauma I caused. I take full responsibility for this heinous act.
California law now requires parole board members to place more emphasis on the release of inmates who were young offenders when they committed their crime, and those who are now elderly and have served long prison sentences. .
All three were initially sentenced to prison for the rest of their lives. However, an appeals court later reduced their sentences to life with the possibility of parole.
The trio have been planning a kidnapping for over a year
The three had been planning for more than a year to ransom the children for $5 million from the state Board of Education.
James Schoenfeld once told parole officials that he envied friends who had “Ferrari’s for him and for her.” Woods said at a previous parole hearing that he just “got greedy.”
Madera County prosecutors at previous parole hearings said Woods’ disciplinary offenses showed he had yet to learn to follow the rules. They also questioned why some of the victims said Woods should be released, despite others previously saying he deserved to stay behind bars.
But Woods and his lawyer have pointed out that he has had an undisciplined record since his last parole hearing in October 2019.
Woods’ parole was also backed by some prominent supporters, including Democratic U.S. Representative Anna Eshoo of Palo Alto in 2015.