Man who hijacked bus full of kids and buried alive gets parole

Frederick Newhall Woods and two accomplices kidnapped a bus driver and 26 children in California before burying them alive in 1976 – in a plan said to be inspired by a Dirty Harry movie plot

Frederick Newhall Woods was eligible for parole
Frederick Newhall Woods was eligible for parole

A 70-year-old man who hijacked a bus full of schoolchildren and buried it alive in 1976 has reportedly been paroled after serving more than 45 years in a California prison.

Frederick Newhall Woods and two other men, along with the bus driver, took 26 children, ages five to 14, to the nearby town of Chowchilla, 125 miles from San Francisco.

He and two other kidnappers, Richard and James Schoenfeld, buried her alive in a bunker with a vent in a quarry owned by Woods’ father.

They then demanded a $5 million ransom from the Board of Education in the largest mass kidnapping in US history and is believed to have been inspired by a plot from the Dirty Harry movie.

The children and the driver were abducted from a location about 125 miles from San Francisco



But the 27 prisoners, all from Livermore some 100 miles away, were able to dig themselves underground after 16 hours while the three kidnappers slept.

All three conspirators, who came from wealthy San Francisco families, pleaded guilty to the kidnapping and were sentenced to 27 life sentences without the possibility of parole.

An appeals court later ruled that the three should have a chance of parole and initially Richard Schoenfeld should be released in 2012 before his brother James in 2015.

The children and the driver managed to escape while the kidnappers slept


Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

Woods has now also been granted parole, said Joe Orlando, spokesman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation CNN.

Some of the abducted children have spoken of the fears and nightmares they still suffer after the incident.

Darla Neal, who was 10 at the time, told CNN in 2015 that she hadn’t gotten over it.

James Schoenfeld, Fred Woods and Richard Schoenfeld (left to right) who were convicted of the kidnappings


Bettmann archive)

“I’m so overwhelmed I had to leave work,” she said.

“I tell myself I should be able to shake that off and deal with it. But here I am, a mess.”

It was Woods’ 18th parole hearing, taking place last Friday at the California Men’s Colony, a state penitentiary in San Luis Obispo.

Some of the children have since spoken out about the fear they suffered


48 hours)

The parole decision becomes final within 120 days, and the governor then has 30 days to review it.

He can either let it stand or refer it to the full board for review, but since Woods was not convicted of murder, the governor cannot reverse the decision.

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