SAN LUIS OBISPO (CBS SF) — A state Board of Parole Hearings panel denied parole Thursday to the last of three men who kidnapped a busload of Chowchilla schoolchildren in 1976 and buried them in a quarry in Livermore for ransom.

Alameda County Deputy District Attorney Jill Klinge said the board denied parole for 64-year-old Frederick Woods for the 14th time because of his continued criminal thinking, which she said was demonstrated by his disciplinary infractions at the California Men’s Colony in San Luis Obispo.

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Klinge said Woods had three infractions for possession of pornography in 2002 and 2003 and two for possessing contraband telephones in 2013 and 2014.

She said the infractions show that Woods “still violates rules” and engages in criminal thinking and planning.

At the conclusion of a lengthy hearing at the prison in San Luis Obispo Thursday, the parole panel denied parole for Woods for three more years.  But it has the option of reconsidering the matter again in 18 months.

The two men who were convicted with Woods, brothers Richard and James Schoenfeld, have already been released from prison.

James Schoenfeld was released in August and Richard Schoenfeld was released in June 2012.

The Schoenfeld brothers and Woods were in their early to mid 20s when they ambushed a busload of schoolchildren from Dairyland Union School in Chowchilla, a small farm community about 35 miles northwest of Fresno in Madera County, on July 15, 1976, according to prosecutors.

The men left the bus camouflaged in a creek bed and drove the children and bus driver Ed Ray about 100 miles to the California Rock and Gravel Quarry in Livermore in Alameda County.

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They sealed their victims in a large van that had been buried in a cave at the quarry and fitted to keep the children and driver hostage, prosecutors said.

The kidnappers, all from wealthy families in the Peninsula communities of Atherton and Portola Valley, then demanded a $5 million ransom for the schoolchildren and Ray.

The hostages escaped from the buried van a little more than a day after they were first kidnapped when Ray and the two oldest children piled mattresses to the top of the van and forced their way out.

The Schoenfeld brothers and Woods received life sentences after pleading guilty in Alameda County Superior Court in 1977 to 27 counts of kidnapping for ransom.

But an appellate court ruled in 1980 that they were eligible for parole, finding that the victims didn’t suffer any bodily harm.

Klinge said several victims opposed parole for Woods at Thursday’s hearing but one supported parole.

Woods’ lawyer, Scott Handleman, wasn’t immediately available for comment.

 

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