SAN LUIS OBISPO (AP) — A man who was among three convicted in the 1976 kidnapping of 26 children and their school bus driver was released on parole Friday after nearly 40 years in prison.
James Schoenfeld, 63, was freed from the California Men’s Colony in San Luis Obispo after Gov. Jerry Brown allowed the parole to go ahead a week ago, Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokeswoman Terry Thornton said.
Schoenfeld; his brother, Richard; and a friend, Fred Woods, pleaded guilty to kidnapping charges for holding the students and bus driver hostage in a buried, ventilated trailer. Richard Schoenfeld was released in 2012.
The men took the hostages from Chowchilla in the Central Valley to a quarry near Livermore, where they were held captive underground in the trailer stocked with mattresses, food and water. They eventually managed to dig their way out and escaped unhurt when the kidnappers took a nap.
The trio had planned to seek a $5 million ransom.
In his application for parole, Schoenfeld asked to be released to live with and take care of his 92-year-old mother in the San Francisco Bay Area community of Mountain View. He said that while incarcerated, he has learned job skills including drafting and mechanics.
He testified at his April parole hearing that his eldest brother, who was not involved in the crime, owns an auto mechanic’s shop and offered to pay him $25 an hour to work there full time, according to a transcript of the parole hearing.