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Was a killer walking among us?
Shermantine reportedly released from Death Row to help find bodies

LINDEN - Wesley Shermantine may have walked the rolling farmland near Linden in a rare outside excursion for a Death Row inmate.

Bounty hunter Leonard Padilla told various media outlets that he was informed that Shermantine was let out Sunday in the custody of a heavily armed law enforcement contingent. Padilla contends Shermantine is being offered a set amount of money per body that he helps locate and that the funds for information that results in the discovery of bodies will be paid by the FBI.

Padilla said Shermantine claims as many as 72 bodies were dumped in four water wells. Shermantine is on San Quentin Prison’s Death Row after being convicted of four murders.

He was reportedly taken to fairly secluded Flood Road near Waverly Road near where remains of three of his victims were found in an abandoned water well earlier this year based on rough information and maps Shermantine provided.

Shermantine has reportedly said he wants the “reward” money to purchase items from the canteen at San Quentin Prison.

San Joaquin County law enforcement officials declined comment.

Shermantine and Loren Herzog - known as the notorious Speed Freak Killers - are suspected by law enforcement investigators in the deaths of at least 14 others during a drug-induced killing rampage in the 1980s and 1990s primarily in San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties.

From his cell inside of the condemned unit, Shermantine in February  directed San Joaquin County investigators – under the direction of current Lathrop Police Chief Danielle Hohe – to an abandoned well outside of Linden that would eventually yield bones from four bodies.

The remains found  on the remote property once owned by Shermantine’s family were identified as Cyndi Vanderheiden, 25, who disappeared in 1998, and Chevelle “Chevy” Wheeler, 16, who disappeared in 1985. Shermantine was arrested in 1999 after his car was repossessed and investigators found Vanderheiden’s blood in the trunk. He was convicted of both murders in 2001. He also was convicted of robbing and killing two drifters near Stockton.

There were also the remains of three others found on the former Shermantine family property. Forensic anthropologists identified a  third set of remains yet to be identified belong to a pregnant teenager. Two other victims also were found and not identified.

Herzog committed suicide in January after being released from prison in Susanville. The bounty hunter contends Herzog killed himself because Shermantine was about to use crude maps to show investigators where the bodies were buried. Shermantine was also blaming Herzog for the actual killings.

Herzog’s three murder convictions and 78 years-to-life prison sentence were overturned by an appeals court, which ruled his confession was illegally coerced. He later pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in Vanderheiden’s death and was paroled in 2010. Shermantine blames Herzog for the killing spree, while Herzog maintained Shermantine was responsible for the deaths.

Padilla believes there are for four wells with bodies hidden in the Linden area where Shermantine was reportedly taken on Sunday.

Pressure for authorities to take Shermantine back to his family’s property to point out possible body disposal sites was led by Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani of Patterson. She got a bill signed into law  that gives the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation more freedom in transporting convicted killers for the purpose of showing investigators and recovery teams where they may have buried their victims.

Galgiani  has a 19-year-old cousin Dena McHan who disappeared in 1981. The Assemblywoman fears her cousin may be a victim of the Speed Freak Killers.