Parole denied again for convict in 1976 school bus hijacking

20 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Chowchilla Bus Kidnapper Seeking Release From Prison.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The last of three men convicted of hijacking a school bus full of California children nearly four decades ago was denied parole for the 16th time. A panel decided that Frederick Woods will stay in prison even though the two men convicted with him, brothers Richard and James Schoenfeld, already have been released. The three young men from wealthy San Francisco Bay Area families were given life terms after hijacking a bus carrying 26 children and their school bus driver near the small Central Valley town of Chowchilla in 1976. They buried them in a ventilated underground bunker about 45 miles east of San Francisco, and the victims were able to dig their way out more than a day later.

They included three for possession of pornography in 2002-3 and two for possessing contraband cellphones in 2013-14. “He hasn’t learned to follow the rules,” added Madera County District Attorney David Linn. “Just because you come from a privileged background like his doesn’t mean you can say they don’t matter.” Linn also credited several victims who spoke against Woods’ parole at the hearing Thursday, though several other survivors testified that their kidnapper should be released after 39 years behind bars. I think they need to be watched eternally, the rest of their lives,” victim Lynda Carrejo Labendeira, who was 10 at the time, said in a telephone interview days before the hearing. Woods attorneys, Scott Handleman and Gary Dubcoff, did not return repeated telephone and email messages after the hearing at the California Men’s Colony in San Luis Obispo.

James Schoenfeld told commissioners at his April parole hearing that he was mired in debt and envious of friends in their neighborhood who had “his and hers Ferraris.” But Woods said he didn’t need the money. The three men received life sentences for kidnapping the children, ages 5 to 14, following a change of venue from Madera County to Alameda County because of publicity before trial. The Schoenfeld brothers and Woods were in their early to mid 20s when they ambushed a busload of schoolchildren from Dairyland Union School in Chowchilla, a small farm community about 35 miles northwest of Fresno in Madera County, on July 15, 1976, according to prosecutors.

The men left the bus camouflaged in a creek bed and drove the children and bus driver Ed Ray about 100 miles to the California Rock and Gravel Quarry in Livermore in Alameda County. The kidnappers, all from wealthy families in the Peninsula communities of Atherton and Portola Valley, then demanded a $5 million ransom for the schoolchildren and Ray.

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