FRENCH CAMP (AP) — Authorities on Friday released the identities of two Northern California teenagers whose remains were among hundreds of bone fragments found last month inside an abandoned well linked to two men known as the "Speed Freak Killers."
San Joaquin County Sheriff Steve Moore identified Kimberly Billy, who went missing in 1984 at the age of 19, and Joann Hobson, who disappeared in 1985 at the age of 16. Both were from Stockton.
The remains of a third body found in the well near the farming town of Linden is awaiting identification.
"At this point, of those 1,000 bone pieces that were recovered from the well, the forensic anthropologist has been able to reconstruct what they believe to be three individuals," Moore said.
Investigators believe they were victims of Wesley Shermantine and Loren Herzog, who authorities say went on a methamphetamine-fueled killing spree in the 1980s and 90s.
Shermantine is now on death row for four murders. He sent authorities on a massive search last month after he agreed to disclose burial locations in exchange for $33,000 from a bounty hunter.
Moore said the missing person cases of Billy and Hobson are now homicide investigations.
Billy was last seen on Dec. 11, 1984, and her grandmother reported her missing two weeks later after she failed to contact any family members over the Christmas holiday, according to sheriff's officials.
Hobson was last seen in her east Stockton neighborhood on Aug. 29, 1985. Investigators have long suspected Shermantine and Herzog in the girl's abduction and murder, but they never had enough evidence to charge them.
Hobson' mother, Joan Shelley, emotionally declined comment when contacted by phone Friday.
During last month's search, authorities combed a remote Calaveras County property once owned by Shermantine's family and excavated an abandoned well near the farming town of Linden.
At the Calaveras County property, they found the remains of Cyndi Vanderheiden, 25, who disappeared in 1998, and Chevelle "Chevy" Wheeler, 16, who disappeared in 1985. Shermantine was convicted of both murders in 2001, and Herzog reached a plea deal for voluntary manslaughter in Vanderheiden's death.
Shermantine, who blames Herzog for the killing spree, told authorities that 10 or more bodies could have been stashed at the Linden well. Searchers dug up hundreds of bone fragments there, as well as purses, shoes, jewelry and other evidence.
Investigators were still analyzing evidence found in the well and were working to identify more possible excavation sites. "This is a very long process," Moore said.
Herzog, who was paroled in 2010, committed suicide in January at his trailer in Lassen County, hours after being told that Shermantine was cooperating with authorities.