Speed Freak Killers

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Loren Herzog
Background information
Birth nameLoren Joseph Herzog
Also known asThe Speed Freak Killer
Born(1965-12-08)December 8, 1965[1]
DiedJanuary 16, 2012(2012-01-16) (aged 46)[2]
Susanville, California
Cause of deathSuicide
ConvictionMurder
Sentence78 years, reduced to 14 years, served 11 years
Killings
Number of victims3-19[3]
CountryUnited States
State(s)California
Date apprehendedMarch 17, 1999
 
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Loren Herzog
Background information
Birth nameLoren Joseph Herzog
Also known asThe Speed Freak Killer
Born(1965-12-08)December 8, 1965[1]
DiedJanuary 16, 2012(2012-01-16) (aged 46)[2]
Susanville, California
Cause of deathSuicide
ConvictionMurder
Sentence78 years, reduced to 14 years, served 11 years
Killings
Number of victims3-19[3]
CountryUnited States
State(s)California
Date apprehendedMarch 17, 1999
Wesley Shermantine
Background information
Birth nameWesley Howard Shermantine, Jr.
Also known asThe Speed Freak Killer
Born(1966-02-24) February 24, 1966 (age 47)[4]
ConvictionMurder
SentenceDeath penalty
Killings
Number of victims4-19[5]
CountryUnited States
State(s)California
Date apprehendedMarch 17, 1999

The Speed Freak Killers is the name given to serial killer duo Loren Herzog and Wesley Shermantine, together initially convicted of four murders — three jointly — and suspected in the deaths of as many as 72 people in and around San Joaquin County, California. They received the "speed freak" moniker due to their methamphetamine abuse. As of 2013 Shermantine is on death row. Herzog committed suicide in 2012; his conviction had been overturned in 2004, and had been paroled in 2010. Bones recovered in 2012 from an abandoned well have been positively linked to the killings.[6][7]

Contents

Convictions

Herzog and Shermantine were arrested by the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Department and charged with a series of murders in March 1999. Shermantine, suspected in the case for several months, had been implicated by Herzog, his longtime friend, during questioning by sheriff's deputies. The blood of 25 year old Cyndi Vanderheiden of Clements was found in his car. She had gone missing after having left with them one night in 1998. The duo had grown up as childhood friends in the town, and had been regulars at the bar of Cyndi's father in Linden. Herzog described an incident when Shermantine shot a hunter who they ran into while they were on vacation in Utah in 1994. Utah police confirmed that a hunter was shot to death, but that it was still classified as an unsolved murder. He also said that Shermantine was responsible for killing Henry Howell who was found parked off the road with his teeth and head bashed in. Herzog's said that he and Shermantine passed Howell parked on the highway and that Shermantine stopped, grabbed his shotgun and killed Howell and then robbed what little money he had. Herzog gave specific details on how Shermantine killed Robin Armtrout. In 2001, a jury found Shermantine guilty of four murders; Vanderheiden, Howard King and Paul Cavanaugh both shot dead in their car in 1984, and 16-year-old Chevelle "Chevy" Wheeler, who disappeared in 1985 from Franklin High School in Stockton, when she told friends she was leaving school to go with Shermantine to his family's cabin in San Andreas.[8] Shermantine was given a death sentence, and is on death row at San Quentin State Prison. Herzog was charged with murdering Cyndi Vanderheiden, Howard King, Paul Cavanaugh, Robin Armtrout and to being an accessory to the murder of Henry Howell. He was found not guilty of being an accessory to the murder of Henry Howell and was acquitted in the murder of Robin Armtrout, but was found guilty of first-degree murder of Cyndi Vanderheiden, Howard King, and Paul Cavanaugh. He was given a 78-year sentence. The sentence was later reduced to 14 years. An appeals court overturned the first-degree murder convictions, after ruling his confession was coerced. Herzog was paroled in 2010 to a trailer adjacent to the High Desert State Prison in Susanville. He committed suicide, hanging himself outside the trailer in January 2012, after bounty hunter Leonard Padilla informed Herzog that Shermantine was planning to disclose the location of a well and two other locations where the duo had buried their victims. Prior to then, none of the bodies of their victims had been found. Both men maintained that the other did the killing in all cases.[9] The citizens of Linden, a small town with fewer than 2,000 people, 95 miles east of San Francisco, were long aware of the duo's reputation as methamphetamine users.

Recent evidence

Letters Shermantine wrote to journalist Scott Smith of the Stockton Record led authorities in February 2012 to a well on an abandoned farm outside of Linden, California, where more than 1,000 human bone fragments were recovered. The bones were to be tested by the California Department of Justice for DNA profiling.[10] Shermantine stated that he believed Herzog was responsible for the kidnapping of Michaela Garecht.[11] Shermantine had given investigators maps to the well and other possible burial sites after bounty hunter Padilla promised to pay him $33,000 for the information. Bodies from two sites were identified as those of Chevelle "Chevy" Wheeler and Cyndi Vanderheiden.[12] In February 2012, authorities and Padilla searched for bodies on property owned by Shermantine's parents. The search was spurred by a letter Shermantine wrote to Padilla that detailed possible locations of victims.[13] In March 2012, the FBI's Evidence Recovery Team was asked to assist with the investigation.[14] In early January 2013 the FBI began excavation of an abandoned well, which they hoped would yield more victims' remains.[15]

Other remains

Shermantine has stated he knows the locations in the Cow Mountain Recreation Area of bodies of victims killed by other death row inmates. Lake County sheriffs were skeptical of the possibility of a successful recovery of any bodies in the large park.[16] In August 2012, California Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani wrote to prison department Secretary Matt Cate asking him to briefly release Shermantine from prison, to assist in the discovery of any remains of which he may have knowledge, under an emergency statute she had written.[17]

Kimberly Ann Billy and Joann Hobson

In February 2012, acting on Shermantine's directions, authorities found more than 300 human bones and some personal items in an abandoned well in Linden, California. In late March 2012, the remains of two Stockton, California, teens who had been missing since the mid-1980s were identified as Kimberly Ann Billy, 19, who disappeared December 11, 1984, and Joann Hobson, 16, who disappeared August 29, 1985. The remains of an additional victim as well as an unidentified fetus was found at the well.

References

  1. ^ California Births, 1905 - 1995, Loren J. Herzog
  2. ^ "Loren Herzog leaves note in trailer before his death". Lassen County Times. January 18, 2012. Retrieved February 14, 2012. 
  3. ^ http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-201_162-57562673/fbi-digging-up-calif-well-looking-for-more-speed-freak-killers-victims/
  4. ^ California Births, 1905 - 1995, http://www.familytreelegends.com/records/39461?c=search&first=Wesley&last=Shermantine Wesley H. Shermantine
  5. ^ http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-201_162-57562673/fbi-digging-up-calif-well-looking-for-more-speed-freak-killers-victims/
  6. ^ . http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/more-than-300-human-bones-found-at-abandoned-calif-ranch-with-convicted-killers-map/2012/02/13/gIQA4L629Q_story.html. [dead link]
  7. ^ . http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-serialkiller-20120213,0,2221324.story. [dead link]
  8. ^ "'Speed Freak Killers' Update: Search for victims' remains reaches bottom of Calif. well". CBS News. 
  9. ^ Wollan, Malia (February 18, 2012). "Serial Killers' Graveyard Opens California Town's Wounds". The New York Times. 
  10. ^ http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2012/02/17/speed-freak-killer-speaks-out-in-letter-search-enters-2nd-week/
  11. ^ "Bodies of murder victims found after 'Speed Freak Killer' draws maps for bounty hunter from his death row cell". Daily Mail (London). 
  12. ^ http://www.modbee.com/2012/02/17/2074712/dogs-join-san-joaquin-county-search.html
  13. ^ "Coverage Of Shermantine Property Search". KCRA 3. KCRA-TV. http://www.kcra.com/slideshow/news/30508345/detail.html. Retrieved 21 February 2012.
  14. ^ http://sacramento.cbslocal.com/2012/03/02/breaking-fbi-now-assisting-in-search-for-victims-of-speed-freak-killers/
  15. ^ http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-201_162-57562673/fbi-digging-up-calif-well-looking-for-more-speed-freak-killers-victims/
  16. ^ http://www.mercurynews.com/crime-courts/ci_21154679/speed-freak-killer-hints-at-14-bodies-near
  17. ^ http://www.therepublic.com/view/story/2fb7b25b0e534a5b9e2ee3d77d07f453/CA--Speed-Freak-Killers

External links