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Chowchilla kidnapper may walk free

Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune File Photo

Chowchilla kidnapping victim Larry Park looks at a Madera Tribune story about the crime, which took place July 15, 1976. Kidnapping mastermind Frederick Newhall Woods is in the beginning stages of getting paroled.


The man who is considered to be the mastermind behind the Chowchilla kidnapping of 26 children in 1976 and burying them alive may soon walk free.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation approved Frederick Newhall Woods, 70, for parole after a hearing on March 25, at California Men’s Colony, a state prison in San Luis Obispo.

Woods is one of three men who were convicted of the abduction of the children and their bus driver Ed Ray. The other two were Richard and James Schoenfeld. The three men pleaded guilty, and were given 27 life sentences without the possibility of parole. However, an appeals court overturned the sentence and ruled that they should have the chance for parole.

Richard Schoenfeld was paroled in 2012, and James Schoenfeld was released in 2015.

The hearing panel’s decision for a parole for Woods will become final within 120 days. After the parole decision becomes final, Governor Gavin Newsom has 30 days to review it, but he cannot deny it. The governor can only overturn a parole in cases of murder. He has only two choices in Woods’ case. Newsom can either allow the decision to stand, or he can refer it to the full board for its review. If Newsom allows it to stand, Woods will go free. If the Governor sends the decision to the full board, it can either grant or deny the parole.

After Woods and the Schoenfeld brothers kidnapped the children and Ray, they demanded $5 million in ransom. All 27 hostages were taken more than 100 miles away to Livermore, placed into a truck van and buried alive in a quarry owned by Woods’ father.

After 16 hours underground, Ray and the children dug themselves out and escaped as the kidnappers were sleeping.



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