Chowchillla Bus Kidnapper James Schoenfeld Granted Parole

FRESNO, Calif (KFSN) -- A state parole board granted parole for James Schoenfeld today. Schoenfeld was involved in the Chowchilla bus kidnapping in July of 1976. He, his brother Richard Schoenfeld and Frederick Woods kidnapped a school bus full of children.

The trio then buried the kids alive underneath a rock quarry near Livermore. They demanded $5,000,000 dollars for return of the children who eventually escaped.

In 1977 the three of them were given life sentences with no chance of parole. That is until an appeal three years later overturned their eligibility for parole. James' brother Richard Schoenfeld was paroled in 2012.

Wednesday's decision begins a six month process to determine if James Schoenfeld will be released from prison.

VIDEO: Chowchilla school bus kidnapping victims respond to James Schoenfeld parole

Convicted Chowchilla school bus kidnapper, James Schoenfeld is one step closer to becoming a free man. The 63-year old inmate was granted parole on Wednesday. Schoenfeld was one of three accused kidnappers who took a school bus full of children and the driver, and buried them alive in 1976.

Several of James Shoenfeld's victims went to court to fight his potential release, but at least one person believes he's already served enough time.

The trauma of being trapped underground still haunts the victims.

"It was horrible. It was terrifying. I was 6 years old. It was a terrible crime," said Larry Park, 1976 kidnapping victim.

Park was diagnosed with severe post traumatic stress with psychotic tendencies . He was one of 26 children victimized during the Chowchilla bus kidnapping by James Schoenfeld, his brother Richard and Frederick Woods.

On Wednesday, Schoenfeld was granted parole by a special board in San Luis Obispo.

"They heard from the inmate, they heard from crime victims. they reviewed psychological records, his rehabilitation and training, his behavior in prison and ultimately decided he was eligible for parole," said Bill Sessa, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

The state's department of corrections says only people who pose no risk to society are granted parole. But Schoenfeld's case still has to be reviewed by a panel. The soonest he could be freed is six in months.

Madera County District Attorney David Linn is fighting his possible release. "When you take a number of impressionable children and you bury them in anole that's a terrible crime."

Linn does not believe Schoenfeld is rehabilitated and thinks he's being paroled -- partly because of overcrowding in prisons. "Clear out the jail so we can put more people in. That's not a solution but that's how the state views him."

But Park, who spoke at the latest hearing after meeting privately with Schoenfeld, says he should be let go because he's a changed man. "I told the parole board today his debt to me has been paid. To me him getting out, I don't have an adverse reaction to it, but it's still a shock."

Another victim who was on the bus says she's angry and will fight to keep her attacker behind bars.

James Schoenfeld's brother Richard was paroled in 2012. The third kidnapper is still in prison. null
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