On Thursday, California Governor Jerry Brown let a deadline pass and refused to rescind a decision by a parole board to release 63-year-old James Schoenfeld, one of the three men convicted of kidnapping 26 children and their school bus driver in 1976 and holding them hostage in a trailer.
Brown’s Deputy Press Secretary Deborah Hoffman defended Brown by pointing out that he had no authority to reverse or change Parole Board decisions for inmates sentenced to life in non-murder cases.
Schoenfeld, his brother, Richard, and a friend, Fred Woods, were convicted after planning for 18 months to kidnap the children, ages 5-14, and hold them for ransom. The children were kidnapped in Chowchilla and transported to a quarry near Livermore. The trailer in which they were kept had mattresses, food, and water.
The Dairyland Union School District students and bus driver Ed Ray escaped while the kidnappers were asleep.
The Schoenfelds and Woods received life sentences, which were reduced to life with the possibility of parole by an appeals court.
Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokesman Luis Patino said that once California Men’s Colony in San Luis Obispo receives the decision, they will have five days to schedule Schoenfeld’s release. Richard Schoenfeld was paroled in 2012, and Woods is scheduled for a parole hearing this fall.