Lauren Moye, FISM News
The last incarcerated perpetrator of a horrific mass child kidnapping has been released on parole in California.
The state’s parole board affirmed their decision to release Frederick Woods, 70, on parole after serving the majority of his life in prison for kidnapping a bus full of children in what is considered to be the largest mass kidnapping in U.S. history.
Woods and his two accomplices, brothers Richard and James Schoenfeld, kidnapped the Chowchilla, California children in 1976. They buried the children along with the bus driver in a moving van while attempting to secure a $5 million ransom. The 26 minor victims ranged in age from 5 to 14.
The children were able to dig their way out roughly 24 hours into the ordeal.
The Schoenfeld brothers have already been released. Richard was ordered to be released by an appeals court in 2012, while James was paroled in 2015.
Gov. Gavin Newsom asked that the board reconsider its earlier decision on Tuesday. The board did not change their minds.
This is the final act made possible by Newsom’s father, who reduced the men from life sentences while an appellate judge. This sentence reduction happened largely because no serious physical harm had come to the children.
Victims and their families were horrified by the decision to release Woods.
“I don’t get to choose the random flashbacks every time I see a van similar to the one that we were transported in,” Lynda Carrejo Labendeira said to the parole board ahead of the decision. She was 10 at the time of the kidnapping and still has nightmares from being trapped underground with poor ventilation, no food, and no water.
“His mind is still evil and he is out to get what he wants,” former 9-year-old victim Jennifer Brown Hyde said. “I want him to serve life in prison, just as I served a lifetime of dealing with the PTSD due to his sense of entitlement.”
It’s the sense of entitlement underscoring the perpetrator’s motives that most concerns the victims. Woods and the Schoenfeld brothers both came from wealthy families.
“I didn’t need the money. I wanted the money,” Woods told the board, implying a need to impress his parents through access to the funds.
Woods is considered the ringleader of the bunch. However, the delay in his release is also in part due to ongoing financial misconduct while incarcerated. Woods used a contraband cellphone to continue making business decisions, including running a Christmas tree farm, a gold mine operation, and a car dealership.
He was denied parole on 17 previous occasions.
According to a Wednesday statement by his attorney, Dominique Banos, Woods has “shown a change in character for the good” and is “no danger or threat to the community.”