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Parole Granted to Last 1976 California School Bus Hijacker

SACRAMENTO, Calif.The final of three men convicted of hijacking a school bus filled with California children for an attempted $5 million ransom in 1976in just what a prosecutor called the biggest mass kidnapping in U.S. historyis released by the states parole board.

Gov. Gavin Newsom asked the board to reconsider its decision to parole Frederick Woods, 70, on Tuesday. Two board members recommended his release in March when previous panels had denied him parole 17 times. However the board affirmed that decision.

Woods and his two accomplices, brothers Richard and James Schoenfeld, were from wealthy SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA Bay Area families if they kidnapped 26 children and their bus driver near Chowchilla. The city is approximately 125 miles southeast of SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA.

The three buried the kids, ages 5 to 14, with their bus driver within an old moving van east of SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA with little ventilation, light, water, food, or bathroom supplies. The victims could actually dig their way to avoid it greater than a day later.

Newsom said Woods continued to activate in financial related-misconduct in prison, utilizing a contraband cellphone to provide advice on owning a Christmas tree farm, a gold mining business and an automobile dealership. The governor couldnt block Woods release because hes not convicted of murder, and might only urge the parole board to have a closer look.

Woods behavior continues to show that he is approximately the amount of money, Madera County District Attorney Sally Moreno said in opposing his parole.

Moreno said following the decision that she was angry and frustrated because justice has been mocked in Madera County, and she fears for hawaii of society when you can kidnap a busload of school children, abandon them buried alive but still escape prison after committing that crime and spending your time and effort in prison flouting regulations.

Woods wasnt permitted attend personally on Tuesday. But he said during his parole hearing in March he felt he needed money to possess acceptance from his parents and was selfish and immature in those days, while his newer violations were to benefit the trust fund left him by his late parents.

I didnt need the amount of money. I wanted the amount of money, Woods said of the ransom attempt.

His attorney, Dominique Banos, said Wednesday that the parole board recognized that Woods shows a big change in character for the nice and remains a minimal risk, as soon as released from prison he poses no danger or threat to the city.

Three former inmates who served time with Woods urged parole officials to free him, while four victims or their relatives said Woods misbehavior in prison shows he still views himself as privileged. Many of Woods victims have previously supported his release.

School Bus Hijacking
Officials remove a moving van buried at a rock quarry in Livermore, Calif., on July 20, 1976. Twenty-six Chowchilla school children and their bus driver Ed Ray were held captive in the van. (James Palmer/AP Photo)

Lynda Carrejo Labendeira, who was simply 10 at that time, recalled the way the children struggled to flee as a flashlight and candles flickered out as the makeshift, dungeonous coffin was caving in.

I dont reach pick the random flashbacks each and every time I visit a van like the one which we were transported in, she told the board.

Insomnia keeps me up all hours of the night time, she said. I dont sleep in order that I dont need to have any nightmares at all.

Jennifer Brown Hyde, who was simply 9 at that time, recalled the lifetime ramifications of being buried alive and being driven around in a van for 11 hours without food, water, or perhaps a bathroom in over 100-degree weather.

His mind continues to be evil and he could be out to obtain what he wants, she told the board. I’d like him to serve life in prison, in the same way I served an eternity of coping with the PTSD because of his sense of entitlement.

She said Wednesday that her family is disappointed, nonetheless it is time and energy to close this chapter and continue living the blessed life I have already been given. She praised her fellow hostages as true survivors rather than victims.

An appeals court ordered Richard Schoenfeld released in 2012, and then-Gov. Jerry Brown paroled James Schoenfeld in 2015.

Newsom acknowledged that Woods is qualified to receive consideration both because he was just 24 when he committed the crime and because he could be elderly now. He said Woods, who once studied policing at a residential area college, in addition has taken steps to boost himself in prison.

The governors late father, state Judge William Newsom, was on an appellate panel in 1980 that reduced the mens life sentences to provide them the opportunity at parole. He pushed because of their release in 2011, after he retired, noting that no-one was seriously physically injured through the kidnapping.

By Don Thompson

The Associated Press

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