The man who who kidnapped a bus full of school children and buried them alive has been approved for parole after spending more than 45 years behind bars.
Frederick Newhall Woods and two other men abducted 26 kids, aged between five and 14, along with the bus driver, near the town of Chowchilla, 125 miles from San Francisco, in 1976.
Woods and his two accomplices, Richard and James Schoenfeld, buried their victims alive in a bunker in a quarry that was owned by Woods’ father.
They then demanded a $5 million ransom from the Board of Education in the biggest mass kidnapping in US history. The crime is believed to have been inspired by a plot from the film Dirty Harry, reports the Mirror.
But the 27 captives, who were all from the California town of Livermore – some 100 miles away from the scene of the crime – were able to dig themselves out after 16 hours underground while the three kidnappers were sleeping.
All three conspirators, who came from wealthy San Francisco families, pleaded guilty to kidnapping and were given 27 life sentences without the possibility of parole.
An appeals court later ruled that the three should have the chance for parole, and first Richard Schoenfeld was to be released in 2012 before his brother James in 2015.
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Woods has now also been approved for parole, said California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokesperson Joe Orlando.
Some of the children who were kidnapped have spoken of the anxiety and nightmares that they still suffer following the incident.
Darla Neal, who was 10 at the time, told CNN in 2015, that she has not been able to get over it.
"I'm overwhelmed to the point that I had to leave work," she said.
"I tell myself I should be able to shake this off and deal with it. Yet here I am, a mess."
It was Woods' 18th parole hearing held last Friday at California Men’s Colony, a state prison in San Luis Obispo.
The parole decision will become final within 120 days and then the governor has 30 days to review it.
He can either allow it to stand or refer it to the full board for a review but as Woods wasn’t convicted for murder, the governor cannot reverse the decision.
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