Mountain View Voice

News - June 29, 2012

Media tracks down Chowchilla kidnapper

by Nick Veronin

It didn't take long for local media outlets to figure the Mountain View address of paroled Chowchilla school bus kidnapper Richard Schoenfeld.

Shortly after it was announced on Friday, June 22, that the 57-year-old would be staying in Mountain View, reporters began knocking on his mother's door, according to Liz Wylie, a spokeswoman with the Mountain View Police Department.

Before parole and police officers announced that Schoenfeld would be staying in Mountain View, they spoke with Schoenfeld's mother, Merry, letting her know that the media might come by seeking interviews, Wylie said.

In addition to monitoring Schoenfeld's activity to prevent the possibility that he might commit another crime, the police department is also working to make sure the parolee and his mother are not harassed.

"Part of our goal is that he and his relatives remain safe," Wylie said.

Schoenfeld is of one the three men convicted of kidnapping a school bus full of children in Chowchilla, Calif., in 1976, and is the only one not still in jail. He was paroled after nearly 36 years behind bars.

A Los Angeles Times article covering the 2011 parole hearings for the convicted kidnappers retells the bizarre story: In 1976 three men, armed with guns, kidnapped a bus full of 26 children and their bus driver from Chowchilla — a city in the San Joaquin Valley. The children and driver were herded from their bus into two large vans, driven 100 miles to a Livermore quarry, and transferred again into a large van that had been mostly buried. The adult bus driver, along with all the children, managed to escape, the three men were arrested and sent to prison.

Richard Schoenfeld, along with his older brother John Schoenfeld (both originally from Atherton) and Fred Woods (from Portola Valley), pleaded guilty to the kidnapping.

The men were sentenced to life in prison. John Schoenfeld and Woods have not yet been found suitable for parole.

Though he is a "high-profile parolee due to the notoriety of his crime, Richard Schoenfeld is not considered a high-risk offender by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation," Wylie said in her statement.

He must wear a GPS monitor 24 hours a day as a condition of his parole.

"The State and the courts have determined Schoenfeld no longer poses a threat to society," Mountain View Mayor Mayor Mike Kasperzak said in a press release. "I am confident of our police department and know they will appropriately monitor him to ensure the safety of our community."

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