Reporting Laura Cole
SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – A six-week excavation effort for human remains in a Linden area well failed, the FBI said in a press conference on Thursday.
A team from the FBI has been out at the abandoned well since Jan. 7 in the search for possible humans remains connected to the “Speed Freak Killers” murder spree several decades ago.
One of the killers, Wesley Shermantine gave the FBI information about the location of possible victims, but Shermantine has since told CBS13 that the FBI was digging in the wrong place on Flood Road.
The FBI team spent six days a week on the excavation project at a cost of about $200,000 but came up empty. The excavation team reached a depth of about 95 feet below ground.
“We are disappointed that our efforts did not yield remains, offering closure to families who suspect that Wesley Shermantine and Loren Herzog were involved in the disappearance of their loved ones,” said Herbert Brown, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Sacramento office. “I commend the collaborative team of investigators, evidence response personnel and technical experts who ensured that a thorough search of the hand-dug well was completed.”
Shermantine provided information and was escorted to San Joaquin County by California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation officers and FBI agents on Aug. 16, 2012, to pinpoint a location with the highest probability of yielding victim remains, the FBI said. After clarifying some inaccuracies in Shermantine’s statement, a site on private property was located 200 yards from one of two wells located along Flood Road between Waverly Road and Escalon Bellota Road, the agency said.
Brown said his agency went back to Shermantine this week but that the death-row inmate was not willing to speak to agents.
“Despite what Shermantine would like the media and the public [to] believe, we continued to offer him every opportunity to assist with successful recovery of victim remains with the caveat that he must provide specific information regarding locations and identities,” said Brown. “Since providing information that aided recovery of five victims in February 2012, his claims have lacked necessary specificity. He now refuses to meet with us, stymieing future investigation and excavation.”
There were two open wells on the site and one had already been searched by the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office, which found remains belonging to “Speed Freak” victims Kimberly Billy and Joann Hobson.
Brown said there are no plans for future digs unless the FBI has concrete evidence of buried human remains.
He said the FBI will reach out to victims’ families to explain why the search has been called off.
The news was “heartbreaking” for crime victims advocate Harriet Solarno.
“It’s not going to bring any closure at all,” she said. “One thing you want to do us bury your loved ones.”
Families are also left feeling helpless and heartbroken.
“I’m trying to keep myself from crying, from yelling, from screaming, and having a tantrum on the floor, and kicking and pulling out my hair,” said Marie Gillit.
Her father, Phil Martin, disappeared in 1993, and she believes he’s a victim of the “Speed Freak Killers.” Her father has never been found and she was hopeful the FBI would provide some answers.
“I thought, ‘is this a joke? Is this a sick joke they are playing on us?’ I mean, how dare they give up when there is so many more people,” said Gillit.
In August, the FBI brought Shermantine to Linden to point out possible burial sites. Investigators then determined an area well was the most viable place to finding remains.
However, in letters from Shermantine, he claims he never pointed to the location where agents began to dig.
Now that Shermantine isn’t speaking to agents, it leaves families of victims like Gillit wondering whether or not they’ll ever get answers, or if their loved ones’ remains will be found.
“We’re not going to give up. We can’t, we can’t. That’s my dad, he deserves to be home. He deserves some respect,” said Gillet.
The FBI says they also searched two other sites in San Joaquin County, based on information from Shermantine, but never found any human remains at either of those locations.