Chowchilla school bus kidnapper to be released
The 1976 crime has become part of California lore -- and many of those in the small town of Chowchilla, where it happened, thought those responsible would stay behind bars for life. But later this month, one of the three kidnappers will be a free man.
A spokesman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said Richard Schoenfeld's release became necessary after the state Supreme Court decided not to intercede in a lower court’s decision to release Schoenfeld. The state parole board had initially hoped to keep him behind bars at least until 2021, but the appellate court deemed the board’s formula of two years for every victim unfair.
Schoenfeld, the youngest of the three kidnappers, went to prison at age 22. He, his brother and another young man -- all from wealthy families -- kidnapped a school bus carrying 26 schoolchildren and their driver and buried them in the largest kidnapping for ransom in U.S. history.
The kidnappers made each victim climb down a ladder into a buried moving van equipped with two air tubes. Along one wall were dirty mattresses and containers of water. The men then poured dirt over the van.
All of the victims survived despite about 16 hours underground, but word in recent years that Schoenfeld might be granted parole disturbed many in Chowchilla.
For security reasons, authorities declined to say when or where Schoenfeld, 58, would be released, other than that it would be this month. He has been serving his time at a state prison in San Luis Obispo, along with his two accomplices.
-- Robert Faturechi
Photo: Richard Schoenfeld. Credit: Associated Press