Last of Chowchilla School Bus Kidnappers Denied Parole

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Frederick Woods, one of the three men who committed the infamous school bus kidnapping incident nearly 40 years ago in Chowchilla, California, has been denied parole for the 16th time.

The Associated Press reported that a panel at a Woods’ parole hearing at the California Men’s Colony in San Luis Obispo decided to keep Woods in prison. The other two men involved in the incident, brothers Richard and James Schoenfeld, were previously released.

“What makes him different from the other two inmates who were released, he’s had disciplinary infractions,” said Jill Klinge, an assistant senior deputy district attorney in Alameda County.

These infractions reportedly included included three incidents of possession of pornography in 2002-2003, and two incidents of possessing contraband cellphones in 2013-2014.

“He hasn’t learned to follow the rules,” added David Linn, district attorney for Madera County. “Just because you come from a privileged background like his doesn’t mean you can say they don’t matter.”

On July 15, 1976, Woods and the Schoenfeld brothers hijacked the school bus with 26 children and driver Ed Ray on board. The trio forced the students and driver onto two separate vans and drove them around for approximately 11 hours before moving them into another van that was buried in a rock quarry. 

The perpetrators had placed 14 mattresses inside this van, and eventually Ray and some of the children were able to use the mattresses to climb out of the vehicle and then dig their way out. All 26 children and Ray managed to escape after 16 hours of captivity.

The three men, who all came from wealthy Bay Area families, carried out the elaborate scheme after losing money in a real estate venture. They sought $5 million in ransom. Woods and the Schoenfelds had all been originally sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, but an appeals court later reversed the decision, upholding the life sentence but opening up the possibility of eventual release.

Richard Schoenfeld was released from prison in 2012, and his brother James was released earlier this year.