- Frederick Woods has been approved for parole after serving more than 40 years in prison.
- Woods and two accomplices abducted 26 children on a school bus in 1976.
- Woods was denied parole 17 times and said his character changed at his 18th parole hearing on Friday.
A man who has been in jail for four decades after kidnapping a school bus from children and burying it alive in 1976 has been approved for parole, Nation World News and NBC News reported.
Frederick Woods, 70, was cleared during a parole hearing at California Men’s Colony, a state jail, on Friday after being previously denied 17 times. He had the support of two survivors.
“I believe you’ve served up enough time for the crime you committed,” said survivor Larry Park, who supported Woods’ release along with Rebecca Reynolds Dailey. But Park added, “I’m worried about the addiction you can have to money,” and encouraged Woods to consider getting treatment.
Woods and his accomplices, brothers Richard and James Schoenfeld, abducted 26 children and their bus driver on July 15, 1976, near Chowchilla, a town 125 miles southeast of San Francisco.
USA TODAY has reached out to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation in California.
According to Nation World News, the group took the 27 hostages 100 miles to Livermore where they were placed in a moving truck and buried alive. Woods and the brothers demanded $ 5 million from the State Council of Education.
The children, aged 5 to 14, and bus driver were able to dig out their path after 16 hours. It was considered the largest mass abduction in U.S. history, the outlet reported.
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Governor Gavin Newsom’s late father, State Judge William Newsom, reduced all three men’s life sentences in 1980 so they could have a chance at parole.
Richard was released in 2012 following an appeal court order and James was arrested by the then Gov. Jerry Brown in 2015.
Woods read an apology for his crime during his parole hearing on Friday.
“I had empathy with the victims that I did not have then,” he said. “I have had a character change since then.”
“I was 24 years old,” he added. “Now I fully understand the terror and trauma I caused. I take full responsibility for this heinous act.”
Because Woods committed the crime when he was young, he falls under a California law that requires parole commissioners to give greater weight to the release of inmates who were convicted in their youth but are now elderly and have served long prison sentences.
The approval of the parole hearing will be finalized within 120 days, and will then be sent to Governor Gavin Newsom where he will have 30 days to review the decision, Nation World News reports. Because it is not a conviction for murder, Newsom can not set it aside, but rather send it to the Parole Board’s hearings for review.
Jennifer Brown Hyde, a survivor who opposes Woods parole, said he did not completely fix the crime
“He could have done a lot more,” she said. “Even the settlement paid to some of our survivors was not sufficient. It was enough to pay for a little therapy, but not enough to buy a house.”
Contributed by: Associated Press