Map leads police to hundreds of human remains at California ranch
Searching with the help of a map provided by a death row inmate Wesley Shermantine, authorities in California have found skull fragments and other human remains, including clothes, purse and jewellery in a well on an abandoned cattle ranch near Linden.
According to Stockton Record
, the map was part of a letter Shermantine, now 45, wrote from his cell on death row at San Quentin State Prison.
reports multiple bones, skull fragments, clothes and shoes, and a woman's ring with initials engraved were found in the well near the corner of Escalon-Bellota and Flood Road in Linden. According to San Joaquin County Sheriff's spokesman, Deputy Les Garcia : "It's [the ring] been buried for several years, so we're going to see how it cleans up, and see if it's going to determine maybe the possibility of who the owner is."
Les Garcia said investigators, public works employees and volunteers have found more than 300 human bones after four days of search on the site in a rural area in Northern California. Fox40.com
reported the well was located at exactly where Shermantine said it would be. Shermantine, in his letter, had referred to the well as "Loren's Boneyard." Deputy Garcia explained : "...the description was, it's next to eucalyptus trees. That led us to this well, because it's right next to some eucalyptus trees that are there. We're sifting through the dirt, screening them into buckets, re-screening them and seeing what comes out. Then were booking what we find into evidence."
Shermantine and his childhood friend, Loren Herzog, are known to the public as the "Speed Freak Killers" because of their serial killings under the influence of methamphetamine. According to Daily Mail
, Shermantine and Herzog gained notoriety after revelation of a career of decades-long serial killings.
reports samples of the bones found in the well were sent to laboratories in the hope they may be identified through DNA analysis. Dental records were used to identify remains found on Thursday in Calaveras County as belonging to 25-year-old Cyndi Vanderheiden who disappeared in 1988. Vanderheiden's remains, according to Stockton Record
, were found in a ravine off Leonard Road in Calaveras County. Shermantine, in his letter, had said he dumped Vanderheiden's body down the ravine and buried it in a shallow grave. Close to the burial site of Vanderheiden, the remains of Chevelle Wheeler, a 16-year-old school girl killed in 1985 while she was skipping school, were found. Chevelle's remains were found on hillside close to a house built by Shermantine's father. According to Garcia, the search in Calaveras County has been concluded:"We believe at both locations we recovered all the remains as humanly possible."
Shermantine was convicted for four murders and sentenced to death in 2001, while Herzog was convicted of three murders. His sentence was reduced from 77 years to 14 years in prison, after the court ruled against his first-degree murder conviction, saying his confession was obtained illegally.
Herzog was paroled in 2010 and sent to a trailer outside the High Desert State Prison in Susanville where he committed suicide last month after he was told his friend Shermantine was revealing to authorities the locations of their "boneyards."
According to Stockton Record
, Detective Michael Jones who arrested Wesley Shermantine in 1999 is leading the search. He said: "I have daughters too. I can't imagine what they (relatives of the victims) are going through, I just can't imagine."
The search on the Linden ranch is expected to continue for several days. The property, located about 60 miles from Sacramento, was owned by Shermantine's late father.
At least three separate skulls have been found in the well. Reuters
reports the "Speed Freak Killers" may have been involved in at least two dozen killings.
Investigators have established a hotline for family members who believe their loved ones may have been victims of Herzog or Shermantine: (209) 468-5087.