The last man in prison for a 1976 kidnapping of a school bus full of California students and their driver has won parole.
Frederick Woods, 70, was one of three men convicted after hijacking the bus near Chowchilla. Woods and brothers Richard and James Schoenfeld put the driver, Frank Edward Ray, and 26 children, ages 5 to 14, in a moving van and buried the vehicle. The kidnappers demanded $5 million in ransom. More than a day later, the victims dug their way to freedom.
In March, two members of the state’s parole board recommended Woods’ release after he had been denied parole 17 times before. According to The Associated Press, Gov. Gavin Newsom asked the state board to reconsider the decision to parole Woods now.
The news report indicated that Newsom accused Woods of continued financial-related misconduct while in prison. It’s alleged that Woods used a contraband cellphone to give advice about running a tree farm, a gold mining operation, and a car dealership.
William Newsom, the governor’s late father, served on an appellate panel in 1980 that reduced the kidnappers’ life sentences to provide opportunities for parole. Richard Schoenfeld was released in 2012. Gov. Jerry Brown paroled James Schoenfeld in 2015.