SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A convicted serial killer could be temporarily freed from death row to help search for the remains of long-dead victims under a bill the state Senate approved Thursday.
The measure is aimed at getting direct help from Wesley Shermantine, who is awaiting execution for four murders.
Authorities say Shermantine and his childhood buddy, Loren Herzog, engaged in a methamphetamine-fueled killing spree in the 1980s and 90s.
Herzog hanged himself in January after learning that Shermantine was giving investigators crudely drawn maps that led them to four victims’ remains this year. AB2357 would give the state’s corrections secretary the authority to let Shermantine personally assist investigators in finding other bodies.
The tightly drafted bill withdraws that authority on Jan. 1, 2013, and allows Shermantine’s release only to help in finding evidence and victims’ remains. Senators approved the bill unanimously and sent it to the Assembly for final consideration.
Shermantine wanted to assist investigators, but efforts to temporarily release him into their custody under heavy guard stalled when a local sheriff objected.
The pending legislation would make it clear that Corrections Secretary Matthew Cate has the authority to release Shermantine to help, said Sen. Elaine Alquist, D-Santa Clara, who carried the bill in the Senate.
“New searches with the assistance of this inmate may occur very soon,” Alquist said. “This unique set of circumstances … may lead to the reopening of as many as 72 missing persons cold cases in up to 21 Northern California counties.”
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.