Frederick Woods kidnapped a school bus full of children in 1976 and buried them alive.
This week, at age 70, he was officially granted parole, Terry Thornton of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation confirmed to USA TODAY.
In March, Woods was approved for parole during a hearing at California Men’s Colony, a state prison, after previously being denied 17 times. He had the support of two survivors.
“I believe you have served enough time for the crime you committed,” said survivor Larry Park, who supported Woods’ release along with Rebecca Reynolds Dailey. But Park added “I’m concerned about the addiction you may have about money,” urging Woods to consider getting treatment.
Woods remained incarcerated Thursday in San Luis Obispo. Due to safety and security concerns, Thornton said, CDCR does not disclose a person’s release date.
He was 24 when he and two others kidnapped the 26 children and their bus driver in Northern California.
The group took the hostages 100 miles away to Livermore where they were placed into a moving truck and buried alive. Woods and the brothers demanded $5 million from the state Board of Education.
The children, aged 5 to 14, and bus driver were able to dig their way out after 16 hours.
Newsom’s late father, state Judge William Newsom, reduced all three men’s life sentences in 1980 so they could have a chance at parole.
Richard was released in 2012 after an appeals court order and James was paroled by then-Gov. Jerry Brown in 2015.
I’ve had empathy for the victims which I didn’t have then,” Woods said in March. “I’ve had a character change since then.”
Because Woods committed the crime when he was young, he falls into a California law that requires parole commissioners to give greater weight to freeing inmates who were convicted in their youth, but are now elderly and have served long prison sentences.
The approval from the parole hearing became final earlier this year, then was sent to Newsom who had 30 days to review the decision. Because it’s not a murder conviction, Newsom was not able to overrule it, but instead, sent it to the Board of Parole hearings for review.