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Chowchilla bus kidnapper out of prison after 35 years

FILE - In this July 17 1976 file phoschool bus driver Ed Ray Jr. steps from bus threturned him 26

FILE - In this July 17, 1976 file photo, school bus driver Ed Ray Jr. steps from the bus that returned him and 26 school children home to Chowchilla, Calif., after the were kidnapped by three men. Ray, the school bus driver hailed as a hero for helping 26 students escape after three men kidnapped the group and buried the entire bus underground in 1976 died on Thursday, May 17, 2012. He was 91. (AP Photo)

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MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — One of three men who kidnapped a busload of California school children in 1976 is living with his mother in a San Francisco suburb after being released from prison last week.

Richard Allen Schoenfeld was released Wednesday after 35 years in prison and taken to Mountain View, police spokesman Liz Wylie said.

Schoenfeld’s mother, Merry, confirmed that he was staying with her, but she had no further comment.

His older brother, John Schoenfeld, spoke to San Francisco television station CBS5, shortly after his brother was released. Their brother, James Schoenfield, and his friend, Fred Woods, who was the third kidnapper, are scheduled for parole hearings later this year.

“My mother, and the whole family would like to say we’re sorry to the victims,” John Schoenfeld told the station. “Unfortunately, my brothers didn’t understand. It wasn’t only the kids, they thought the kids were going to be home in a couple of days, but it was a kid, it was a family, it was a whole community they affected.”

Richard Schoenfeld, 57, is required to wear a GPS monitoring device 24 hours a day, and he will be monitored by police, authorities said.

Mountain View police were in communication with parole agents for the past week in preparation for Schoenfeld’s release, acting Police Chief Mike Hamlin said in a statement.

“The MVPD will continue to work closely with parole in monitoring Schoenfeld to ensure the safety of our community members,” Hamlin said.

Schoenfeld, his brother, James, and a friend, Fred Woods, were convicted of kidnapping 26 school students and their bus driver and burying them alive in a van in a Livermore rock quarry in the hopes of collecting a $5 million ransom.

Their plot unraveled when they took a nap, and students and the bus driver escaped.

All three men received life sentences after pleaded guilty to kidnapping charges.

In February, an appeals court ordered Richard Schoenfeld be released from prison, ruling that the Board of Parole Hearings had unfairly set his parole date for 2021 even though it concluded he wasn’t a threat to society.

But Schoenfeld had remained locked up while the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation appealed to the California Supreme Court.

When the high court notified the department earlier this month that it was refusing to take the case, prison officials had no choice but to release Schoenfeld.

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