Frederick Woods, one of three men who hijacked a school bus and kidnapped 26 children in Chowchilla, California in 1976, was recommended for parole last week, after parole commissioners found him suitable for parole. According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, this was Woods' 17th attempt to earn parole in what has been called the largest kidnapping in U.S. history. His other parole attempts were rejected. The Associated Press reports two of the victims in the kidnapping supported his release.
Woods, alongside brothers Richard and James Schoenfeld, blocked the road the school bus was traveling on with a van. The trio kidnapped 26 children and their driver, Frank Edward Ray, and buried them in a moving van in a quarry. The victims were able to escape after 16 hours.
Gov. Gavin Newsom's late father, state Judge William Newsom, was on an appellate panel in 1980 that reduced the men's life sentences to give them a chance at parole. After retiring, he advocated for their release in 2011, noting that no one was seriously physically injured during the kidnapping.
The decision will still be considered by Newsom, but he can’t block it because it’s not a murder conviction. He could only refer the decision to the full Board of Parole Hearings for a review.
Richard Schoenfeld was released on parole in 2012, and James Schoenfield received parole in 2015.
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