Parole possible for man who kidnapped students
James Schoenfeld, one of three men who kidnapped a busload of schoolchildren from Chowchilla, Calif., in 1976, has received initial approval for parole, state corrections officials said.
Schoenfeld, his brother and another man forced 26 children and the bus driver to climb into a moving van that had been buried in a rock quarry 100 miles away, and planned to demand $5 million in ransom.
The captives managed to escape after being entombed at the quarry for 16 hours.
Wednesday’s development “only begins a sixmonth process to determine whether or not he will go free,” said Bill Sessa, a spokesman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
It marked the 20th time Schoenfeld, 63, has been considered for parole. Sessa said he did not know why the outcome was different this time.
The children kidnapped by Schoenfeld, his brother Richard and Frederick N. Woods ranged in age from 5 to 14.
The three men all were in their 20s at the time and came from wealthy families. Both Schoenfeld brothers were Eagle Scouts.
They had sustained losses on a real estate project and were hoping to make some easy money by demanding millions of dollars in ransom.
The men were convicted in the kidnapping and sentenced to life in prison.
Richard Schoenfeld was released on parole in 2012. Woods remains incarcerated.
Wednesday’s decision to approve James Schoenfeld for parole was made by a two-member panel of the state Board of Parole Hearings, Sessa said. Next, he said, the board’s legal staff will review the decision.
If it passes legal review, the governor can approve the parole, allow it to stand by taking no action for 30 days, extend the release date or refer the decision back to the board for all the commissioners to review. The governor cannot unilaterally reverse a decision to grant parole in kidnapping cases, Sessa said.
WORKERS UNCOVER the moving van that was buried at a rock quarry in Livermore in 1976 with 26 children and a bus driver, all from Chowchilla, inside.
JAMES SCHOENFELD has been considered for parole 20 times.