Mastermind of infamous California kidnapping granted parole after 44 years in prison

Male prosecutors found the mastermind behind the 1976 kidnapping of a bus driver and 26 children in Chowchilla on parole.
Fred Woods' eligibility for parole was confirmed Tuesday, according to Terry Thornton, a spokesman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
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The hearing at the California Men's Colony in San Luis Obispo marked the 18th time Woods has appeared for a parole hearing, she said. The board confirmed a March 25 hearing that initially granted him parole.
CDCR officials declined to give a timeline for Woods' release, citing safety concerns.
The 70-year-old was jailed on February 17, 1978 following the 1976 incident in which bus driver Edward Ray helped rescue 26 students kidnapped by Woods and brothers Richard and James Schoenfeld. The trio buried their victims alive in a quarry in Livermore.
Madera County Prosecutor on parole by Fred Wood
Madera County District Attorney Sally Moreno challenged the first finding, prompting a review by the full parole board on Tuesday. She responded to the hearing with a stern statement.
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"I am angry, frustrated and concerned that the Madera County judiciary has been mocked," she said in a prepared statement. "Let me be very clear: if you kidnap a busload of school kids, have them buried alive and still get out of jail after committing this crime and spending your time in jail disobeying the law, breaking the rules and to demonstrate that through your behavior you have learned nothing since you committed this crime, it says a lot about the state of our society and the state of California right now.”
In this July 20, 1976 file photo, workers prepare to remove a pickup truck from a Livermore quarry where 26 Chowchilla children and a bus driver were being held captive.
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Unlike the other kidnappers, who authorities said were model prisoners, Woods had broken prison rules. He was caught with pornography in 2002-03 and with contraband cell phones in 2013 and 2014.
Two victims of the kidnapping and a relative of a third victim, who has since died, spoke out at the hearing against the release of Woods, Moreno said.
"It's hard to express everything I'm feeling — all the suffering he's caused these children throughout their lives and will continue unabated," she said.
Details of the 1976 Chowchilla bus hijacking
The kidnappers drove the victims around for nearly a dozen hours before stopping at Livermore Quarry, where Ray and the 26 children were forced into a buried moving truck.
The kidnappers wanted a $5 million ransom, but Ray and some of the older children were able to stack mattresses high enough to climb out of an opening at the top of the buried van. They pushed open a metal lid covered with about 200 pounds of industrial batteries, cleared some debris and freed the rest of the children after 16 hours underground.
Richard and James Schoenfeld were paroled in 2012 and 2015, respectively.
Ray was honored in 2015 when the city of Chowchilla named a park after him and hailed him as a hero.
Frederick Newhall Woods, 70
Ed Ray bought the bus from which he and 26 children were abducted for $500. He later donated it to Bright's Pioneer Museum in Le Grand, east of Chowchilla

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