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Clues found in 'Speed Freak Killers' murders

February 12, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Wet weather Monday hampered the search for more human remains in what appears to be a mass grave used by two men known as the "Speed Freak Killers." The search could resume Tuesday. Investigators in Northern California have found hundreds of bone fragments, jewelry and pieces of clothing.

The wet weather has been a stressful setback after several fruitful days of searching for evidence. Investigators have already found 300 bone fragments over the weekend where they say the "Speed Freak Killers" buried their victims during a drug-fueled killing spree in the 1980s and 1990s.

"The soil around the well itself, as well as the processing area, is just completely wet and muddy," said San Joaquin County Sheriff's Deputy Les Garcia. "The footing is unstable."

Nearly 24 searches with specially trained dogs are helping with the excavation. They've already dug up 45 feet and combed through more than 30 piles of dirt.

In addition to finding bones, there were shoes, clothing and jewelry.

Locals have long suspected that bodies were buried near the location. It was a popular partying hangout for kids in the '80s and '90s, including for this case's convicted killers, Wesley Shermantine and Loren Herzog.

"They liked that spot because it's clear to both sides of the road and they could see if the police were coming," said Garcia.

Sacramento bounty hunter Leonard Padilla is the man who started it all. He paid $33,000 to Shermantine for the information. Shermantine drew maps of where the bodies were buried. Padilla is surprised searchers found anything at Monday's location.

"In this particular well, I don't know that there's any more than a couple," said Padilla. "I do believe in the other well further east there's as many as a dozen."

Padilla confronted Herzog, who was paroled a year ago. Herzog committed suicide last month just hours after being told his partner in crime was telling authorities where bodies are buried.

Shermantine says authorities should also be searching Herzog's family property, where they still live.

"I want to tell you the truth: There's a lot of wells they should dig up in this area," said Padilla.

Another site where authorities found a skull Thursday has been preliminarily identified Monday as belonging to Cyndi Vanderheiden, 25. Remains found Friday could be those of 16-year-old Chevelle Wheeler. The sheriff's office says it has fielded nearly 30 calls from people with loved ones missing.