One of the men responsible for the largest kidnapping in U.S. history has been recommended for parole. Frederick Newhall Woods, 70, was one of three men who hijacked a school bus full of children in Chowchilla, California, in 1976.
Woods, along with James and Richard Schoenfeld, kidnapped the 26 children and their bus driver, put them in vans, and drove them around for 12 hours until they reached Livermore, which was about 100 miles away.
The men then buried the victims alive in an underground truck trailer and demanded $5 million for their safe release. The driver and several older children managed to escape by digging out of the trailer while their captors slept.
All of the children were safely rescued. While they did not suffer any serious injuries, many were left with life-long psychological harm from the harrowing ordeal.
While the Schoenfelds have both been granted parole, Woods has been denied 17 times since his conviction. During his 18th attempt at seeking parole, two commissioners recommended that he should be released. Their decision will become final in 120 days. After that, California Governor Gavin Newsom will have 30 days to approve Woods' release or refer it to the full parole board for further review.
Woods took responsibility and apologized for his actions during his parole hearing.
"I've had empathy for the victims, which I didn't have then," he said. "I've had a character change since then."
"I was 24 years old," he added. "Now I fully understand the terror and trauma I caused. I fully take responsibility for this heinous act."