MADERA COUNTY – The last in a trio of men convicted of kidnapping 26 school children and their bus driver near Chowchilla in 1976 will appear before the California Parole Board on Nov. 19.
Frederick Woods, along with his two conspirators Richard and James Schoenfield, pleaded guilty to the crime in Alameda County Superior Court in 1977, and were all sentenced to life in prison. However, Richard was paroled in 2012, and his brother James was released from prison this past August. Now, Woods will be asking for his freedom also.
On July 15, 1976, a group of children from the Dairyland Union School was returning from a swimming field trip when Woods and the Schoenfield brothers hijacked the bus, hid it in a drainage, and after driving their captives around in a pair of vans for many hours, took them to a quarry in Livermore, where they held them captive in a buried trailer.
The kids and their bus driver piled up some of the old mattresses that were inside the trailer, dug through the dirt and debris under which the trailer was buried, and managed to escape through an opening in the roof while the kidnappers were napping. The children were physically unhurt during their 16-hour ordeal.
All three men were in their mid-20s at the time of the kidnapping, and were demanding a $5 million ransom for the release of their captives.
Now, nearly 40 years after the crime, Woods will be pleading his case to the Parole Board, asking to be released from prison.
Madera County District Attorney David Linn will be attending the hearing, and says he expects a number of the victims– now in their 40s and 50s — to be present also. Linn is hopeful that parole will be denied for Mr. Woods.