Frederick Woods: Man who buried 26 Chowchilla school kids alive for ransom gets parole NOD after 17 refusals
Woods and his fellow kidnappers, Richard and James Schoenfeld pleaded guilty to kidnapping and were each given 27 life sentences without parole
Frederick Newhall Woods, one of the three men who abducted 26 kids and their driver, in California in 1976, might be freed on parole after 46 years. Woods and his two accomplices hijacked the bus in Chowchilla and transferred the children, aged five to 14, into vans before driving them to Livermore. The three men buried all 27 captives alive in a quarry owned by Woods' father and demanded a $5 million ransom, a scheme apparently inspired by the movie 'Dirty Harry'.
The children, as well as the driver, spent 16 hours underground but managed to dig themselves out and escape while the three abductors slept. Woods and his fellow kidnappers, Richard and James Schoenfeld pleaded guilty to kidnapping and were each given 27 life sentences without the possibility of parole. But the sentence was overturned by an appeals court, allowing them to apply for parole. Richard Schoenfeld was released in 2012, while James Schoenfeld was released in 2015.
BREAKING: Parole has been recommended for Frederick Woods, guilty of one of the most bizarre crimes in #California history: the Chowchilla Bus Hijacking— Retro Tech Noir (@RetroTechNoir) March 26, 2022
In 1976 he hijacked a school bus with 26 kids and buried them alive in a bunker, demanding $5m ransom
Should he be paroled? pic.twitter.com/o0j73ZmAyy
Woods, now 70, first became eligible for parole in 1982, as per reports. His 18th parole hearing was held on Friday, March 25, at California Men's Colony, San Luis Obispo. As per CNN, after the parole decision becomes final, the governor has 30 days to review the decision. He can either allow the decision to stand or refer it to the full board for review. Woods, who has spent the last four decades in prison, had been denied release 17 times before this recent parole hearing.
Parole denied again for Frederick Woods - the last of 3 men convicted of hijacking a school bus w/ 26 children & their driver in 1976 in Chowchilla. Woods can try again in 5 years. Brothers Richard & James Schoenfeld, were paroled several years ago. pic.twitter.com/wrGAXOG6rC— KMJ NOW (@KMJNOW) October 8, 2019
"In all cases, the governor carefully reviews parole decisions to determine whether a parole grant is consistent with public safety," Danella Debel, a spokesperson for Governor Gavin Newsom, told The New York Times. At his hearing, Woods apologized for his actions and said, "I've had empathy for the victims which I didn't have then. I've had a character change since then. I was 24 years old. Now I fully understand the terror and trauma I caused. I fully take responsibility for this heinous act," reports CBS News.
If Newsom gives the final go-ahead, parole is imminent for Frederick Woods, quite possibly Portola Valley's most notorious criminal. Woods, now 70, pled guilty for his role in a 1976 kidnapping that generated national headlines. https://t.co/ASwiZWn1uC via @nytimes pic.twitter.com/1i1S92sqJm— Rachael Myrow (@rachaelmyrow) March 30, 2022
Mike Marshall, one of the victims who was 14 at the time, told AP News in 1986, "I thought we were going to die down there. We were really sweating bad because we didn't have any air." Jennifer Brown, who was 9 then, said, "I had dreams about myself dying. The psychiatrist said I prepared myself to die, which sounded pretty reasonable to me because you're not supposed to have dreams that you die." Darla Neal, who was 10 at the time, told CNN in 2015, "I'm overwhelmed to the point that I had to leave work. I tell myself I should be able to shake this off and deal with it. Yet here I am, a mess."
Parole Recommended for Final Chowchilla School Bus Hijacker: This was Frederick Woods' 17th attempt to earn parole in what has been called the largest kidnapping in U.S. history. https://t.co/fUO6N4Psm7 pic.twitter.com/sJ5vwfcKP9— School Bus Fleet Mag (@SchoolBusFleet) March 29, 2022
At the hearing on Friday, Brown said, "He could have done much more. Even the settlement paid to some of us survivors was not sufficient. It was enough to pay for some therapy, but not enough to buy a house." Larry Park and Rebecca Reynolds Dailey, two of the kidnapping victims, supported Woods' being paroled. "I believe you have served enough time for the crime you committed," Park said during the hearing, per NBC News.