Dig Expert Says Better Method Available For Well Searches

LINDEN (CBS13) – Responding to criticism on the search for human remains in a well near Linden last week, investigators say they’ve followed procedure, but experts say there are alternative methods that can preserve the remains and the crime scene.

Dr. Rick Snow specializes in recovering human remains. The former state forensic anthropologist for Georgia has, among other things, spent eight months excavating mass graves in Bosnia

“Over the years I have done 12 wells and removed human remains from six of them,” he said. “None of these remains have marks on them because of the excavation.”

Under the supervision of the state Department of Justice and San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department, crews in Linden dug a trench with a hole straight down a well containing human bones believed to be victims of “Speed Freak Killers” Wesley Shermantine and Lorez Herzog, using heavy equipment to remove victims’ remains. More than 1,000 bone fragments were recovered.

“The safety of search teams was paramount in the decision to use the excavator,” said the DOJ’s Jill Spriggs.

But that method was heavily criticized by retired FBI Agent Jeff Rinek, who called it unnecessarily destructive and a desecration.

“In my mind, I see backhoe bucket breaking bones, breaking skulls, dislodging teeth from skulls, intermingling the victims’ remains,” he said last week.

Dr. Snow uses an alternative method, although heavy equipment is still in the equation.

Working in a corkscrew pattern around the well, a 50-foot well would end up with a hole 200 feet in diameter.

“What this allows us to do is work in complete safety,” Snow said.

The well shaft is kept covered with metal sheets to prevent debris from contaminating evidence, allowing investigators and forensic anthropologists to examine an undisturbed crime scene, Snow said.

The technique is more effective but also more expense.

CBS13 spoke with bounty hunter Leonard Padilla, who has offered to pay death row inmate Shermantine for information on the location of the wells where Shermantine said Herzog dumped bodies.

Padilla says various companies that specialize in recovering human remains have approached him and would possibly donate their resources, but the bounty hunter believes brining in the FBI is the best alternative and would take the financial burden of the search off San Joaquin County.

“They can put in people like you can not believe from around the world,” he said. “It doesn’t cost the county of San Joaquin one red cent and the FBI is best at this. They have the best labs and the best people to handle this thing.”

An FBI spokesperson said the federal agency’s assistance hasn’t been requested by the sheriff’s office.

  • Mike

    I do not understand why a news agency would rely so heavily on a bounty hunter for technical information on subjects he has no real knowledge about. It seems like such an easy way out, go out and get the information first hand. Quote the real expert. Stop quoting second hand information from non-experts, it makes you sound like the National Enquirer.

    • Reality

      I don’t think they are relying on him at all. He just keeps interjecting himself with the media’s help.

  • disgusted

    This man is responsible for the victims being found after all these years. Why you are so jealous of him is a real mystery. Where have the experts been for decades regarding these monsters, where were the so called experts who did not search for victims on the convicted killers property after they were found guilty? He did us all a favor by calling the released killer, who then killed himself.

  • bubba

    Why don’t you try reading the story again if you can read they are not quoting Padilla they are quoting Dr.Rick Snow who happens to be a specialist in the field

    • ed grohosky

      you are absolutely correct bubba. i am surprised that the real motivator in this investigation has been a bounty hunter. the real question is, ……why is leonard padilla so interested in this one particular investigation, and not any others ??

  • redneckresearcher

    Freedom to chose which monstrosity investigation you are interested in, freedom of choice ya know…ever heerd of that? Snow is the expert being refered to, geez.

  • torabora

    What this FBI agent is saying is painfully obvious….The San Joaquin Sheriff is not interested in identifying whoever was in that well. I suspect he is angry at even having to deal with this problem…he didn’t expect to find anything and once he did he had to keep going with his crude methods to make it seem as if he actually knew what he was doing.

    Remember that cadaver dogs found the other two bodies on the other former Shermantine property…..all these years had gone by and the Sherriffs did not bother themselves to search that property with dogs until Padilla does. You have to wonder just how much searching there occured 15 years ago. The bodies weren’t even hard to find now. The evidence of surface disturbance would have been plain back then. You have to wonder what the Shermantine family knew too.

    When the dig 1st occured Padilla was saying that it was the wrong place. A former owner said he filled in the well with junk at about the time that these killers 1st operated….is it possible that something else happened at this site?

    Someone needs to make sure Shermantine gets paid and we get the other sites properly excavated. There are rumblings that nothing else will be dug up….again.

    • ed grohosky

      good post, i agree…..

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