After more than 35 years in prison, one of three men who kidnapped a busload of schoolchildren in a ransom attempt in Chowchilla has been released on parole.More >>
FRESNO, Calif. (KMPH) -
One of the men convicted of kidnapping a bus full of kids in Chowchilla 36 years ago got his shot at freedom Wednesday.
Several victims spoke at a parole hearing for Fred Woods, who was in his 20s when he did the crime; now he's 61 years old.
For the 13th time, Woods was denied parole.
He's been behind bars for 35 years now at the California Men's Colony near San Luis Obispo, and he'll stay there for at least another few years.
It's a huge relief for some of his victims - still struggling with the memories.
In 1976, Woods and brothers Richard and James Schoenfeld, kidnapped 26 kids and a school bus driver, loaded them into a moving van and buried them alive, in hopes of collecting a $5 million ransom.
Lynda Carrejo-Labendeira, who now lives in Fresno, was 10 years old when it happened - and found herself in the same room as her kidnapper during the parole hearing, and describes the experience as "very, very scary."
She says Woods spoke at the hearing.
"He tried to use the fact that he was a model prisoner, and they were model criminals. But burying children alive, there's nothing model about that. When we were begging and pleading for our mommies and daddies...they just said, shut up in there," said Carrejo-Labendeira.
Woods and the Schoenfeld brothers were all sentenced to life in prison.
Richard Schoenfeld was released on parole in June - he was the youngest of the three.
Lynda says she's grateful Woods will remain behind bars.
She says Woods' reaction to the denial, was one of arrogance.
"He was pretty smug. He comes from a great deal of wealth. He inherited 25 cars, and has 25 cars. And he has a job that will pay him $4,000 a month when he gets out," said Carrejo-Labendeira of what she learned at the hearing.
Woods can apply for parole again in three years.
James Schoenfeld, who is serving his time at the same prison as woods, is up for parole in March of next year.
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