(WTVO) — A 70-year-old man accused of kidnapping a bus full of children and burying them alive for ransom in 1976 has been approved for parole. According to CNN, Frederick Newhall Woods was one of three men who kidnapped 26 children and their bus driver in northern California, drove them more than 100 miles away, placed them in a moving truck, and buried them alive in a quarry owned by his father.
The kidnappers then demanded $5 million in ransom. After spending 16 hours underground, the driver and the children were able to dig their way out and escape. The crime was considered the largest mass kidnapping in U.S. history. Woods and his accomplices, Richard and James Schoenfeld, were sentenced to life sentences without the possibility of parole.
However, an appeals court overturned the sentence. Richard Schoenfeld was paroled in 2012, and his brother James in 2015. Woods read an apology for his crime at Friday’s parole hearing, his 18th since becoming eligible for parole in the early 1980s.
“I’ve had empathy for the victims which I didn’t have then,” Woods said. “I’ve had a character change since then.”
“I was 24 years old,” he added. “Now I fully understand the terror and trauma I caused. I fully take responsibility for this heinous act.”
CNN reported that several of the victims say they still have nightmares and anxiety due to the incident.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.