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No parole for Chowchilla school-bus kidnapper

Original post made on Jan 6, 2009

A state Board of Parole Hearings panel Monday night once again denied parole for one of three men -- all from wealthy families in Atherton and Portola Valley -- who in 1976 kidnapped a busload of schoolchildren from Chowchilla in the Central Valley and buried them in a quarry in Livermore.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, January 5, 2009, 11:36 PM

Comments (28)

Posted by Shannon S.
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 6, 2009 at 8:35 am

I think they should never get released!

Posted by YouShouldKnow
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 6, 2009 at 11:10 am

God, I remember those guys. They were part of a bigger crowd we ran with in those days. The Schoenfelds. They had it all. The entire situation, inconceivable then, inconceivable now. Just goes to show what happens to some people when they have it too easy when they are too young to fully appreciate it.

Posted by YouShouldKnow
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 6, 2009 at 11:35 am

The article mentioned Rick but not Jim. What about him?

Posted by JA3
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 6, 2009 at 11:41 am

I agree in full with Shannon S's post above.

Posted by YouShouldKnow
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 6, 2009 at 12:24 pm

Ok, did a bit of Googling in case anyone is interested. According to the Fresno Bee James Schoenfeld came up for parole in April of 2008, was denied. Richard Schoenfeld was deemed suitable for parole but, according to the Bee, it could still be decades before he is released. Woods doesn't just minimize his role in the crime, he doesn't want to discuss it at all, which goes directly against how the parole board examines his suitability for release. Discussing the crime gives the parole board insight into his understanding of his role and his remorse, if he has any. Guess not.

Posted by A Noun Ea Mus
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 6, 2009 at 1:29 pm

I doubt they'll ever be released. Not that they should anyway probably...but...

Can you imagine being in any position of authority or power and deciding "I think they've rehabilitated themselves enough to be released"?. Then going to some party or social event and......

or trying to get re-elected.

I used to know someone who grew up with those guys. (Penny Chronas---though spelling of last name may not be right).

I just ordered from Amazon...

Kidnapped! At Chowchilla
by Gail Moock Miller

Has anyone else read it? There has to be an interesting story here. I hope this author is on the caliber of one such as Ron Rosenbaum!

Weird case. Why would these guys from such affluence be motivated to commit such a horrific crime in pursuit of money?

Why would they stoop to such depths as to kidnap a bus of school children? I mean, why not opt instead for a busload of old codgers going up to gamble in South Lake Tahoe? How far were they willing to go if their monetary demands weren't met?

Posted by Paul
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 6, 2009 at 2:16 pm

I wonder what any of the victims, now grown, have to say about parole? If ALL of them (not just some) were for it, I would be sympathetic. Think of the trauma they (and their parents, siblings, relatives, friends) went through.

As the previous poster asked, how far were they willing to go? We'll never know, but I don't see the value of letting them out unless there is some greater value to society they could be providing by being released - not just to save money, or to imply they have "paid their dues"

Posted by Neal
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 6, 2009 at 3:18 pm

At this point it is a complete waste of time and money to keep them in prison. Wasting resources in a bankrupt state doesn't make sense. Do you really think they're a threat to society? I doubt it. The prison guard union is loving it. I'm not soft on crime, but this is ridiculous.

Posted by Nick
a resident of Mountain View
on Jan 6, 2009 at 3:31 pm

Noooo, I think you're wrong Neal. The crime was pretty heinous wasn't it? I sure wouldn't want to live anywhere near these guys.

Posted by A Noun Ea Mus
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 6, 2009 at 3:40 pm

Yeah I doubt IF they were released they'd all band together and kidnap another group of kids.

But somehow letting them out doesn't seem to fit the crime either. Especially when legions of poor and minorities are imprisoned for decades for non-violent drug-related offenses.

Posted by TwoSides
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 6, 2009 at 8:57 pm

Read 'em both:

Why have they taken our children? :
Chowchilla, July 15, 1976 /
Author: Baugh, Jack W.; Morgan, Jefferson,
Publication: New York : Delacorte Press, 1978

Kidnapped! At Chowchilla /
Author: Miller, Gail Moock.; Tompkins, Sandra,
Publication: Plainfield, N.J. : Logos International, 1977

Posted by YouShouldKnow
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 6, 2009 at 10:19 pm

Yo Moose! I've read both books. Saw the movie. My friends and I voraciously devoured the details in the papers and on tv news at the time, being that we 'hung' out with those guys from time to time, mostly at parties. Most interesting reading has come from victim accounts in various publications and tv shows over the years.

Bottom line why we thought they did it? Boredom. Drugs. Narcissim. Thrills. Stupidity. Rebellion. Instant gratification, no real thought to consequences, either to the victims or themselves.

They shouldn't complain too much right now. At our age and in this economy a roof over your head and the guarantee of heat and three squares isn't the worst that can happen!

They may be 'wealthy scions' no more!

Posted by John
a resident of another community
on Jan 7, 2009 at 4:35 pm

I agree with Neal. At least those who took part in this awful crime and are now fully remorseful should be released if deemed no future threat to society. Thirty three years is a life sentence in many court systems. I am tired of spending $10.3 billion of tax dollars to house low recidivism likely inmates when the University of California system only gets by on only $3.0 billion of our tax dollars. There needs to be a huge overhaul of the prison and parole system with out the input of the prison guards union.

Posted by anonymous
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 8, 2009 at 12:00 pm

I lived here at the time of the crime and though I was young, I followed the events. It was pretty horrifying and traumatic for all! A year or so later I met someone who knew the guys, and it was inconclusive as to why they did this stuff. I understood they were very wealthy so it is puzzling.

Posted by YouShouldKnow
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 9, 2009 at 12:54 am

That's just it. THEY weren't wealthy, their parents were. They were just spoiled. Being spoiled gave them nothing to strive for thus making them bored and always on the prowl for thrills!

Posted by anon
a resident of another community
on Jan 30, 2009 at 11:32 pm

I think some things should be as notoriously dangerous as the third rail, rattlesnakes and radiation. One of those things should be the consequences for adult violence involving schools and school buses. Mess with them and spend a very long time in jail. Yes, even more than one year per child victimized.

They left kids buried. They barely dug out before suffocating. If that bus driver hadn't been a strong farmer (how lucky was that!) this would likely have ended a lot worse.

These guys deserve every day of prison they get. The benefit to society is that they serve as a warning to others who might see a soft target.

Posted by Lawrence Berk
a resident of Ventura
on Mar 13, 2009 at 10:23 am

Seeing the movie starring Karl Malden last night on satellite TV brought back horrendous memories of this despicable crime. What ever happened to capital punishment?

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 13, 2009 at 12:56 pm

I don't like the three-strikes law and I think nonviolent offenders shouldn't face life in prison. But the Chowchilla guys--no, I think they can stay in prison. It's sociopathic behavior and sociopaths don't really change. They didn't really care if those kids lived or died. And this wasn't spur of the moment--it was long and involved.

I don't want them out.

Posted by Thomas B.
a resident of another community
on Apr 5, 2009 at 9:52 pm

They were spoiled kids with more money than brains or responsibility, and in their early to mid twenties which is plenty old enough to know right from wrong. It happened three years after I was discharged from the military and I was about their age. A sentence of life should mean life and not a reason for a constant political battle for the victims and prosecutor to have them serve out their sentence. It was a heinous crime that traumatized these kids forever. If they were poor kids or a druggie this wouldn't even be an issue for discussion.

Posted by Dave
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 6, 2009 at 8:31 pm

I just watched the MSNBC show about this crime. I don't think they should ever get out. When I look at my kids today, I cant even imagine what those parents and kids went through. I don't care if the state is bankrupt or not. I believe in doing the right thing and that is too keep them locked up until they die. Those kids and bus driver could have very easily died. After watchinng the show, I hate all 3 of them and feel for victims and there familys. They will never forget.

Posted by Chowchilla Girl
a resident of another community
on May 9, 2009 at 11:40 pm

This article came up when I as looking for articles to show someone who had never heard of the kidnapping...

Let me just tell you about myself: I'm a Chowchilla transplant to the Bay Area (transplanted in H.S.)and I can tell you first hand about how the families and the victims feel about it: My grandmother was one of the busdrivers who were too sick to go to work that day, and because ALL of the ladies were unable to work, Ed Ray was on that bus... THANK G-d. Most of the victims STILL have issues after being held at gunpoint and BURIED UNDERGROUND.

Neal, John and any other IDIOT that think it's ridiculous & that they don't want to spend the money keeping these guys locked up should take some time out of their busy lives and attend one of the Schoenfield/Woods parole hearings. Please. Do. Contact the parole boards & find out when the next one is. They occur almost every 3 yrs, and many of the victims & their families still attend... where they RELIVE what they went through in order for the parole board to know how they were affected for the rest of their lives because of these 3 sociopaths actions. There you will see just how "ridiculous" (Neal?) it is to have these men locked up for the REST of their lives.

This isn't about whether or not they are capable of commiting the same crime today - it's about the consequences of their actions THEN. And just so that you know - the Schoefields & Woods were NO WHERE NEAR where the children & Ed Ray where being kept. Had Ed Ray not been with them that day (as he was an extremely strong man) they surely would have died. The generator that was pumping air into the ground had quit. The evidence showed that the Schoefields & Wood were NOT planning on ever releasing them... they were going to leave them there to die and walk away. They never would have been caught if Ed Ray had not managed to escape. Never.

Next time you think it's ridiculous John & Neal - image YOUR children being buried several feet underground in a big rig trailer... with no light at all... no food... nothing. Just some mattresses to sit on. And then image your child sitting on the floor in there crying for hours and suddenly hearing the air stop being pumped into the trailer. Maybe if you look at it like your child, your brother, your sister... it might not be so ridiculous.

Posted by Joy W.
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 12, 2009 at 12:38 am

Does anyone know how I would go about communicating/writing a letter to the Schoenfeld brothers? I am a distant cousin, and though they are guilty of a horrific crime, I would like to let them know I'm out here and care about them.

Posted by willy
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 14, 2009 at 8:51 pm

I understand that the Woods guy has gotten about 50 million since his
Dad's death, and has gotten some legal eagle to take his case and just had a hearing, so much for 3 more years. I haven't seen anything about this in the paper, anyone know what's up?

Posted by MAllory
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 15, 2010 at 3:36 pm

they done deserve to get out there still a risk to the community and the people there. It would be like letting out the Manson Family just because the show remorse doesn't mean they wont try again

Posted by Steve
a resident of another community
on Jul 6, 2010 at 9:10 am

I was a friend of the family in those pre-crime days and thought the younger brothers alittle out of tune, but the times were full of easily obtainable drugs and political up-heaval, a young person could lose their contact with humanity easily. Their parents were hard workers not what you would call "society scions". The boys (now men) were spoiled and no doubt became underlings and supporters to Fred Woods dark visions easily funded by his resources (not unlike Charles Manson's followers), easily recognizable by Freds present behavior by trying to revise his history. Rick and Jim were rehabilated long ago and no doubt suffered more than their share of degradation and punishment in the penal system. Wake up, let them find a few years of freedom and live with their no doubt bad memories of lost lives, what could have been. Their family has suffered enough. God bless the victims and pray they also have some peace in their remaining years.

Posted by JENN
a resident of another community
on Nov 22, 2010 at 12:11 pm

As a victim of that crime, I find justice in knowing they will face their final judgement one day. It is not my place to give them their final sentence. I had to put aside the hate and anger years ago; it was eating me up inside. As an adult with children of my own, I can't imagine what HELL my parents went through while we were still missing. I am over 40 yrs old, still sleep with a night light and am afraid of small spaces; have issues with elevators and have never ridden a subway. Their decision on July 15, 1976 was a life altering day for them and for all the victims too. I lost my childhood and the carefree years I deserved to live. The pain they caused can never be stopped even if they were to die in prison. It does no good to worry about what if...a part of me died in the tomb in the ground years ago and them being let free will not bring that back.

Posted by Lynda
a resident of another community
on Nov 23, 2010 at 8:03 pm

Good thing the big boys; Michael-14, Jeff-10, Robert-10 and Edward dug our way out. We were beginning to suffocate as we were buried 6 feet underground breathing off of each other's breath. Had those young heroes not tried.... the outcome would have been entirely different. The ages of the children 5-14.

Posted by David
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 21, 2010 at 5:35 pm

They screwed up. Everybody screws up, some worse than others. When is enough enough?

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