SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – One of the men known as the “Speed Freak Killers” who terrorized San Joaquin Valley in a rampage that spanned 15 years has died, according to the Department of Corrections.
Officials say Loren Herzog was found hanging in the trailer he was living in on the grounds of High Desert State Prison in Susanville early Tuesday morning. Herzog was released from prison in 2010 and was paroled to Susanville.
Department of Corrections says a low battery alarm on Herzog’s GPS monitoring anklet alerted parole officials, who asked prison staff to check on him and they found him dead just after midnight. His death is being investigated as a suicide.
Herzog, along with Wesley Shermantine, was originally convicted of numerous first-degree murder charges, including the 1998 rape and murder of Cyndi Vanderheiden. Her body has never been found.
Bounty hunter Leonard Padilla says he suspected Herzog would do something desperate, like plotting an escape from his parole site, because of new information that surfaced this past weekend that could have sent him back to prision.
“He’d go on death row,” Padilla told CBS13. “He’d be in the cell next to his partner.”
Padilla has followed the former “Speed Freak Killers” for more than a decade. Additional sources tell CBS13 that a few days ago, Shermantine provided new details and a map of a San Andreas property, leading to what he calls a “bone yard.”
“They’ll find Chevy Wheeler’s body, they’ll find Cyndi Vanderheiden, they’ll find Joanne Hobson,” Padilla said, “and possibly a dozen other bodies.”
Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgianni, who represents the Central Valley where a number of suspected victims disappeared, says she spoke with desperate family members just Tuesday morning. She’s in the process of authorizing legislation to help with the search for the remains of their loved ones.
“They’ve been bleeding emotionally for 14 years now since this tragedy came up,” she said. “In Calaveras County they had started digging, and there are costs to that, there are costs to repairing and any changes made to it. And if there were to be an investigation going forward, it would be likely it would be cost-prohibitive for the county to bear alone.”
Vanderheiden’s father says he has to see Herzog’s body with his own eyes before he’ll believe his daughter’s killer is really gone. And he’s going to make the four-and-a-half hour drive from his home in Clements to the state prison in Susanville to get the proof he needs.
“I just want to make sure it’s him,” John Vanderheiden told CBS13. “I’ve felt eventually he was gonna die, didn’t know when or where, because what goes around comes around. This should’ve happened a long time ago. If he was in Texas on the death row … he already would’ve been dead.””
Herzog was originally sentenced to 78 years in prison on three first-degree murder convictions, but in 2004 a court ruled his confession was illegally coerced. He was then released from prison.
Shermantine remains on death row. According to witnesses, Shermantine bragged about killing 19 people.
Serial Killer Offers To Reveal Location Of Bodies
Just last month, Shermantine told police he could lead them to the remains of his victims, but he demanded thousands of dollars for the information.
Shermantine wrote a letter from death row saying he buried the remains of 16-year-old Stockton girl Chevy Wheeler on his parent’s property.
Shermantine further claimed in the letter that more than two dozen cold case murders could be solved if he reveals the location of a “bone yard” belonging to Herzog.
“Once Chevy is recovered, I expect my restitution to be paid, then I will take the next step in recovering Herzog’s bone yard,” Shermantine wrote in the letter.
Shermantine wanted a total of $33,000 for the information — $18,000 to pay off his victim’s restitution and another $15,000 to buy headstones for his parents and provide spending money in prison.