Loren Herzog, a parolee, hanged himself on Monday in his trailer outside the gates of the High Desert State Prison in Susanville. Sacramento bounty hunter Leonard Padilla said he had a phone conversation with Herzog that same day, warning the paroled killer to hire an attorney because Shermantine was promising to lead investigators to bodies and was planning to pin their murders on Herzog. “There’s a certain way to do things with felons,” Padilla said. “I didn’t want this to come as a surprise to him.”
Authorities found Herzog dead inside his Lassen County trailer hours later. Herzog is believed to have hanged himself in his state-issued trailer just outside the gates of the High Desert State Prison in Susanville.
“I told him I was communicating with Shermantine,” said Padilla, who agreed to pay Shermantine a little more than $30,000 if bodies were found. “He knew what was coming down the road.”
Padilla said he hoped to recoup the payment through outstanding rewards offered by the state of California for information on the missing. The state is offering at least $200,000 combined for finding at least four people suspected of being murder victims of the pair. Lassen County Sheriff Dean Growdon said “all evidence indicates” that Herzog’s death was a suicide. Growdon said Herzog left a note, but he declined to disclose details other than to say the note was meant for his family and “made no reference to his criminal history, crime victims, etc.” Herzog was married with three children.
Investigators believe Herzog and Shermantine killed as many as 19 people during a methamphetamine spree in the 1980s and 1990s. The two were dubbed the “Speed Freak Killers” when arrested in 1999. Each blamed the other for masterminding the murders. Shermantine is on death row after he was convicted of killing four, including 16-year-old Chevelle ”Chevy” Wheeler in 1985. In letters to the Stockton Record, Shermantine has promised to lead authorities to the bodies of Wheeler, Cyndi Vanderheiden and a covered well holding at least 10 more bodies.
I get all warm and fuzzy inside when I think of Herzog getting that call, realising that he was about to be busted again and then hanging himself. I hope him bladder slipped a bit before he hung the phone up.
In my opinion I am doubting that Shermantine will really give up any information. I mean there is still a chance that Shermantine will talk. I just have a feeling that money will not be enough of a motivator, he really wanted to get even with Herzog. Herzog is now dead which leaves only the money.
SAN FRANCISCO — It was dubbed Operation Closure in hopes that a serial killer on Death Row would finally lead authorities to where at least a dozen bodies were buried decades ago, ending the torment of families who still wonder about their missing loved ones.
Prison officials had mapped out a route from San Quentin State Prison to the Central Valley and assigned a well-armed security detail to travel with Wesley Shermantine, one half of the notorious “Speed Freak Killers” who terrorized the region in the 1980s and 90s. An FBI forensics unit was prepared to excavate the graves after the clandestine search planned for Wednesday in San Joaquin and Calaveras counties.
Then, San Joaquin County Sheriff Steve Moore brought the operation to a screeching halt, complaining he was left out of the planning and that he had concerns with the security measures and Shermantine’s credibility.
Sherriff Steve Moore sounds like a whiny ass. He stopped it because they did not involve him? What the hell is that? I would think those putting up the money should be the ones worrying about credibility and I am pretty sure that the FBI had a plan for some kind of security. Oh wait! Look at that, they did.
It is a scarry thought that this insecure, petty and immature man is in anyway in charge of others.
On Friday, Moore signed on to the plan after meeting with federal, state and local officials in his Stockton office. Moore, San Joaquin District Attorney James Willet and Calaveras County Sheriff Gary Kuntz will co-write a letter to California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to formally request prison officials transport Shermantine to the region “to pinpoint possible burial sites in the near future.”
But now there’s concern that Shermantine may change his mind. Those involved in the initial planning are disappointed they couldn’t go through with the planned search Wednesday and are fearful the opportunity may have been lost.
“Everything was set to go,” said retired FBI agent Jeff Rinek, who was intimately involved in the planning process and opened negotiations with Shermantine on Saturday during a San Quentin visit. Two California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation officials joined Rinek in interviewing Shermantine, and the trio secured details about three locations from him.
“It was really going well,” Rinek said. “Then Moore single-handedly shot everything down.”
I wonder how much Herzog’s death effected the deal.
San Joaquin Sheriff’s Department spokesman Les Garcia declined to discuss Rinek’s comments Friday. On Wednesday, Garcia said Moore was concerned the original plan was “half-cocked” and that the sheriff wanted to “slow things down” to ensure Shermantine couldn’t escape once he was removed from Death Row.
Because he single handedly has more knowledge, experience and expertise on transporting dangerous prisoners than the FBI has.
Rinek said his involvement in the case began when an FBI agent asked him in December to check out Sacramento bounty hunter Leonard Padilla’s claims that Shermantine was divulging locations of missing bodies. Padilla is offering Shermantine a little more than $30,000 for the information with plans to collect some $200,000 in state of California rewards. Rinek had a good relationship with Padilla, who he said helped find a missing infant during his time with the FBI.
Rinek said Shermantine wants to disclose the locations for two reasons. He wants the money to pay off an $18,000 restitution order that prevents him from buying the limited luxuries like candy bars that inmates with money in their accounts can afford. He also said he want to buy headstones for his deceased parents. Shermantine also appears motivated by the fact that his partner in crime didn’t contact him when he was paroled.
So I guess that there is a small chance that he will talk. He is not able to buy stuff for himself so maybe that will be enough? His own ‘discomfort’. I am sure that he wishes that he could still ‘get even” with Herzog though.
This isn’t the first time Shermantine has offered to disclose the locations of bodies. Shermantine has reneged on a promise to do so in 2001 and has made other unfulfilled offers through the years, another reason the San Joaquin County sheriff cited for throwing a monkey wrench into the initial search plans.
The families supported this even though they no longer have any faith that Shermantine will devulge any truthful or helpful information, they still wanted to give it a try.
Moore was more worried about himself. He was not worried about anything other than he wanted to be included in the history reports if Shermantine did say anything.
Rinek said he told Shermantine on Saturday that this had to be the last discussion of the bodies’ locations.
“You have been torturing victims’ families for 20 years,” Rinek said he told Shermantine. “It has to stop.”
Family members of Shermantine’s and Herzog’s victims agree, including the mother of 16-year-old Chevelle ”Chevy” Wheeler. Shermantine was convicted of killing Wheeler even though her body was never found. Shermantine said Saturday that he would lead investigators to Wheeler’s grave, which he said is on property in remote Calaveras County once owned by his parents.
“He has taken us on an emotional roller coaster for 26 years,” Paula Wheeler said in a phone interview from her home in Crossville, Tenn. “I’m sick and tired of it.”
Nonetheless, Wheeler said she supports transporting Shermantine to the area for a search.
“Grab him while the grabbing’s good and drive him down there,” Wheeler said. “I want to bring Chevy home.“
I hope that the families find the bodies and are able to finally close that chapter. It has been way too long.
One last thing on the suicide.
For one family, the news of serial killer Loren Herzog’s death, even by suicide, means justice has been served.
However, John Vanderheiden, of San Joaquin County, said he wants to see either Herzog’s body or autopsy photos for full proof the man — who is responsible for his daughter Cyndi’s 1998 death — is dead.
“I really would like to see him personally to see if he’s really dead. And if it is him, and if he is dead, I would say justice has been served because he should’ve been dead a long time ago,” Vanderheiden said.
Vanderheiden said he is even willing to drive the four hours to Susanville.
“I would definitely take the time to come up and confirm his death,” he said.