Atherton kidnapper will be paroled

Richard Schoenfeld, who grew up in Atherton and was imprisoned for nearly 36 years on a 1976 conviction for the kidnapping of 26 Chowchilla schoolchildren, will be released from state prison in the second half of June at an undisclosed location, a spokesman for the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation told the Almanac.

A parole board in April 2011 found Mr. Schoenfeld, now 57, to not to be an unreasonable risk of danger to the community, defense attorney Gary Dubcoff told the Almanac. The secrecy regarding the location of his release is "usual policy, for the security of all concerned," CDCR spokesman Jeffrey Callison said in an interview.

Mr. Schoenfeld, his older brother John Schoenfeld and Fred Woods, who grew up in Portola Valley, pleaded guilty to kidnapping 26 Chowchilla schoolchildren and their bus driver and secreting them in a quarry in Livermore in 1976, from which they all escaped on their own without injury.

The men were sentenced to life in prison but went to trial on the issue of whether they had physically harmed their victims, Mr. Dubcoff said. Physical injuries would have meant no possibility of parole.

The initial sentences excluded parole -- the trial judge considered a nosebleed and a stomach ache to be injuries -- but an appeals court judge disagreed and overturned the decision, said Mr. Dubcoff, who represents Mr. Woods.

John Schoenfeld and Mr. Woods have not yet been found suitable for parole.

After 20 unsuccessful appearances before a parole board, Mr. Schoenfeld was granted parole in April 2011. The board later tried to delay his release until November 2021, but the First District Court of Appeal said the board "erred" by violating its own rules and that it had no authority to increase Mr. Schoenfeld's sentence after finding him suitable for parole.

Mr. Dubcoff said he was "overjoyed" about Richard Schoenfeld's release. "I'm thrilled for his mom," he said. "It's been her great desire to have her sons come home. It's long, long overdue."

"I have no doubt in my mind that Richard Schoenfeld is going to be a model parolee, just as he was a model inmate," Mr. Dubcoff said. Mr. Schoenfeld participated in psychotherapy, excelled in his prison occupations and was no problem for staff, he said.

There are victims who object to Mr. Schoenfeld's release a vocal minority, he said. "I totally get where they're coming from," he said. "It was a very, very serious crime and that's why they served 36 years." But their time has come, given that double- and triple-murderers have been released after shorter sentences, he said.

"Virtually every" state representative involved in the case supports Mr. Schoenfeld's release, Mr. Dubcoff said, including the trial judge, two appeals court judges, a prosecutor on the case, and two law enforcement officers. "That's a pretty telling fact," he said.

As for further criminal activity on the part of Mr. Schoenfeld, "It ain't gonna happen," Mr. Dubcoff said. "I can assure everyone."

Bay City News Service contributed to this story.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by victims rights
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jun 19, 2012 at 9:07 am

I wish the newspaper at least printed some of the victims stories, with their permission of course. What has their life been like since this crime occurred? What do they really think about their kidnappers release? Did they expect to die after Schoenfeld buried them alive in that quarry?

Does Schoenfeld's family still live in Atherton?

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