SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – A former FBI investigator said a search for missing victims of a spree killing duo was called off Wednesday due to political in-fighting, even though a convicted killer gave him detailed directions to the remains.
Retired agent Jeff Rinek said one of the two convicted “Speed Freak Killers,” Wesley Shermantine, gave up the locations to the resting place of some of the serial killers’ victims in Calaveras and Lassen Counties during lengthy interviews over the weekend.
“He did say there were two locations with one victim each and then another location that had multiple victims,” Rinek said.
Shermantine is on California’s death row. The other man who was also convicted in the 15-year-long killing spree during the 1980s and ’90s, Loren Herzog, was found dead after hanging himself in his trailer near Susanville early Tuesday morning.
Herzog had been released on parole in 2010 after an appeals court ruled that his detailed confessions were illegally coerced. Bounty hunter Leonard Padilla told CBS13 on Tuesday that he believes Herzog committed suicide to avoid returning to prison when authorities investigated Shermantine’s information.
“He’d go on death row,” Padilla said. “He’d be in the cell next to his partner.”
After checking out the locations detailed in conversations with Shermantine, Rinek said he found an “anomaly,” and helped organize a search involving the FBI, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and the Calaveras County Sheriff.
The San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office, who was not included in the search, stepped in and forced investigations to call off Wednesday’s efforts, Rinek said, arguing that it was too risky to allow a death row inmate out of prison to help direct authorities to the potential grave sites.
A spokesperson for the San Joaquin sheriff said, “Security obviously is our utmost priority and the safety of our community and the integrity of investigations that may come out of any potential searches.”
Rinek said he was “devastated” to learn that the search was postponed.
“For me, the greatest gift is to help find a loved one that’s missing,” he said. “All these concerned agencies have all backed off, no one’s taking responsibility when in fact we’ve got a victim in the elements that needs to be recovered.”
The San Joaquin County Sheriff is holding a meeting Friday with several agencies to discuss the search. Shermantine has not been invited.
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.