Pa­role pos­si­ble for man who kid­napped stu­dents

Los Angeles Times - - THE STATE - By Lau­ren Raab lau­ren.raab@la­times.com

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.

James Palmer As­so­ci­ated Press

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.

As­so­ci­ated Press

JAMES SCHOENFELD has been con­sid­ered for pa­role 20 times.

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