Prisoner convicted of kidnapping 26 kids, hiding them in buried trailer recommended for parole in California

(Video: Fox News)

A notorious kidnapper has been granted a recommendation for parole after 17 previous attempts during his more than 45 years imprisoned for the heinous crime committed against 26 children.

On July 15, 1976, 24-year-old Frederick Newhall Woods was accompanied by brothers James and Richard Schoenfeld when the three armed men hijacked a school bus departing Dairyland Elementary School in Chowchilla, California. Now serving a life sentence, what happens next is ultimately in the hands of California’s Democrat Governor Gavin Newsom.

CBS News reported that after the initial hijacking, Woods and the Schoenfelds transferred the children and bus driver Ed Ray to vans that they used to travel 12 hours to a buried truck trailer. The kidnapped victims were then forced to remain buried underground.

While the kidnappers planned their next move which involved a ransom plan for $5 million foiled by jammed phone lines, Ray and the children succeeded in digging out from the buried trailer after enduring a grueling 16 hours of psychological harm.

The trauma was the most significant damage brought upon the group as all physical injuries were superficial. The kidnappers were located and arrested two weeks later and each given life sentences without parole at the California Men’s Colony prison in San Luis Obispo, CA. That decision was overturned by an appeals court, so while the life sentence remained, the possibility of parole was granted.

As such, Richard Schoenfeld was granted parole in 2012 and his brother James attained the same in 2015, CBS reported.

On Friday at his parole hearing, held remotely because of COVID protocols, now 70-year-old Woods read an apology, according to CBS. “I’ve had empathy for the victims which I didn’t have then. I’ve had a character change since then,” he stated.

“I was 24 years old,” Woods continued. “Now I fully understand the terror and trauma I caused. I fully take responsibility for this heinous act.”

Comprised of two commissioners, the panel recommended Woods for parole after two survivors spoke on behalf of the prisoner. Others objected to the parole as the enduring trauma has been something coped with differently by all involved.

Larry Park met with Richard Schoenfeld when the kidnapper was granted parole and told CBS about his path to forgiveness. “My resentment for them…was killing me,” Park explained.

“One night I was laying in bed…and I said, ‘God, help me to forgive them,'” he added. “It changed my life…Something washed over me…And there was peace like I had never known. I knew that day that I would be OK.”

The same could not be said for survivor Jennifer Brown Hyde who told Fox News about her ongoing stress. “I’m 50 years old,” Hyde said, “and I can have an anxiety attack over getting in the car with my husband.”

A key difference between this parole attempt and Woods’ previous efforts is his lack of disciplinary action since his 2019 hearing. CBS explained he had been reprimanded for running a gold mine and Christmas tree farm from prison. Operating a business is not prohibited for prisoners, but Woods did so without authorization.

Woods will still have to face the entire parole board and the board’s legal division before potentially awaiting the approval of Newsom.

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