Loren Herzog and Wesley Shermantine grew up as childhood friends in the town of Linden, California. The citizens of Linden were long aware of the duo's reputation as methamphetamine users.
But no one suspected that the childhood friends would then become serial killers and become known as the "Speed Freak Killers."
Loren Herzog and Wesley Shermantine Were Childhood Friends With A Drug Problem
Loren Herzog and Wesley Shermantine were convicted of four murders — three jointly — and suspected in the deaths of as many as 72 people in and around San Joaquin County, California.
One Woman's Disappearance Put The Two On Police's Radar
They were regulars at the Linden Inn, a bar owned by the father of 25-year-old Cyndi Vanderheiden of Clements, California. Vanderheiden went missing after leaving the Linden Inn with Herzog and Shermantine on November 14, 1998. This was the first incident that put the two men on the radar as potential killers.
Herzog Turned On His Friend And Started Providing Police Information
The investigation into Vanderheiden's disappearance was ongoing into 1999, and Shermantine became the prime suspect. In January 1999, San Joaquin Sheriff's Department finally got the chance to search his car because it had been repossessed. Blood from Cyndi Vanderheiden was discovered in the car.
The sheriff's department focused on Loren Herzog, Shermantine's friend and suspected accomplice. He was extensively questioned because police assumed they would eventually crack and turn on each other.
Immediately, Herzog started talking and spilling a lot of information to the police. Herzog described to police how Shermantine shot a hunter they ran into while they were on vacation in Utah in 1994. Herzog also said Shermantine was responsible for killing Henry Howell, who was found dead in a car parked off the road on Highway 88. Herzog said he and Shermantine passed Howell parked on the highway and Shermantine stopped, killed the man, and stole what little money he had.
They Were Both Found Guilty Of Murder
In 2001, a jury found Shermantine guilty of four murders, including 16-year-old Chevelle "Chevy" Wheeler, who disappeared in 1985 from Franklin High School in Stockton after telling friends she was leaving school to go with Shermantine to his family's cabin in San Andreas.
Shermantine was sentenced to death and is on death row at San Quentin State Prison.
Herzog was charged with five counts of murder in 1999: Cyndi Vanderheiden, Henry Howell, Paul Raymond Cavanaugh, Howard Michael King III, and Roberta "Robin" Ray Armtrout.
He was found guilty of killing Vanderheiden, Cavanaugh, and King, and an accessory to murder in the Howell cause. He was acquitted in the Armtrout case and given a 78-year sentence.
Police Believe They Killed Dozens Of People
An appeals court overturned all of Herzog's convictions in August 2004, after ruling that three of Herzog's four confessions were coerced.
Herzog committed suicide in January 2012 shortly after bounty hunter Leonard Padilla informed Herzog that Shermantine was planning to disclose the location of the victims' bodies.
Two separate burial sites in Calaveras County, California were investigated in February 2012 based on information Shermantine provided. The bodies of Chevelle "Chevy" Wheeler and Cyndi Vanderheiden were both recovered in the search, but other locations that Shermantine indicated were used as dumping sites never turned up any evidence.
In 2018, the Sheriff-elect of San Joaquin County announced that the "Speed Freak Killers" case would be re-opened since it appeared they were responsible for more deaths than they originally indicated.
The two men are suspected of the deaths of as many as 72 people.