One of the three Chowchilla bus kidnappers is a free man.
Richard Schoenfeld is out on parole after serving 36 years in prison for kidnapping a bus full of schoolchildren and their driver in Chowchilla.
The news disturbed the community Thursday.
“This whole town came apart-went crazy looking for that bus,” said Joe Newton.
Joe Newton just moved to Chowchilla when three men from wealthy families hatched their ransom plot… taking over the packed bus before burying it in a rock quarry.
Larry Park was on that bus.
“I was six years old,” he recalled.
His heart has since softened for the kidnappers.
“I have found forgiveness and I forgive Richard,” Park said.
The State Parole Board initially set Schoenfeld’s release for 2021, but the Appellate Court ruled it unfair and set him free.
“The man has rehabilitated, holds degrees, helped other men in prison, got a GED, been through therapy, and I don’t believe he’s a threat to society,” Park said.
The kidnapping was a topic of conversation at the Chowchilla Rotary Club Thursday.
Ronald Moore is related to the bus driver, Ed Ray who died a few weeks ago at 91.
“I think some crimes are so horrendous that they should pay the ultimate price for it,” Moore said.
Schoenfeld’s accomplices have parole hearings later this year.
Park hopes to meet Schoenfeld one day.
“I want to tell him that I forgive him for hating him for 35 years,” he said.
Authorities won’t say where Schoenfeld was released.