Victim Studies 015: Wesley Shermantine

on March 19, 2012 in Serial Killers, Victim Studies, Victimology by

Wesley Howard Shermantine, otherwise known as one of the Speed Freak Killers, is a serial killer who was charged for the murders of 4 people in the United States. He was found guilty of four murders in 1999 and sentenced to death. Although he was found guilty of four murders he is thought to have been involved in the murders of 72 people with his partner, Loren Herzog, and an unidentified third male. It is believed that Shermantine began his murder series in 1984, at the age of 18, and continued until his arrest in 1999.

Shermantine did not show any preference when it came to his murder victims. They were males and females of all ages. Most of the victims were not stalked or picked out before hand, but instead were selected at random and murdered when there was an opportunity. His first murder was committed in 1984 with his partner in crime, Loren Herzog. The murder took place when Shermantine and Herzog stopped beside a car, which was pulled over to the side of the road. The passenger was taking a nap when Shermantine took out a shotgun and shot the man to death. Together these two are known to have murdered three people, and apart they murdered many more.

Many of Shermantine’s female victims are believed to have been raped prior to their murders. Since the remains of some of the victims have yet to be found, the only way this was brought to light was from Herzog’s testimony against Shermantine. During his trial, Herzog claimed that Shermantine would get carried away and raped the female victims. In addition to this, testimony, which was given by five different women who knew Shermantine either before or during his murder series, showed that he was a man who enjoyed to physically and sexually abuse women. In one instance, Shermantine rear-ended a woman’s vehicle and when she exited the vehicle to exchange insurance information he kidnapped her at knifepoint and went on to brutally rape and sodomize the woman. His estranged wife also testified that he was very violent, going as far as to abuse her while she was pregnant with his child.

The Speed Freak Killers earned their name because of the methamphetamine induced high that Shermantine and Herzog would be on when they committed their murders. Detectives believe that some of his known and suspected victims were lured in through of the promise of methamphetamines. This drug has been known to make most users feel euphoric, have extreme feelings of power and hallucinations. For Shermantine and Herzog, the drug was used before and during the murders of many of their victims.

Unfortunately, many of the victims have yet to be discovered. Even some of the victims that Shermantine was found guilty of murdering have yet to be found. It is because of this that Shermantine’s method of murder is not known. Herzog claimed that Shermantine would either shoot the male victims or stab the female victims to death. It is believed that the males were murdered instantly and sometimes without warning, whereas the murders of the female victims were made to take longer.

The remains of the males were typically left at the scene of the crime, while the female victims were hidden and still are being found. It is believed that the remains of his female victims were placed at the bottoms of wells, mineshafts or beneath trailer parks. It is because of these well-hidden and unknown burial spots that it has taken so long for detectives to connect Shermantine and Herzog to many of the murders.

On March 17, 1999 Shermantine was arrested for the murder of Cyndi Vanderheiden after her blood was found in his car. Detectives also found evidence that tied him to 3 other murders. After his arrest, detectives discovered over $40,000 worth of guns, which were believed to have been tied to other murders. Unfortunately, because many of the remains have yet to be discovered, the guns could not tied to any other murders. Throughout their trials both Herzog and Shermantine claimed that the other person had been the one to commit the murders. In May of 2001, Shermantine was found guilty of all 4 murders and sentenced to death.

Many experts believe that Shermantine committed many more than four murders, as most serial killers do not have a 13 year cooling off period between their murders. The murders which Shermantine was found guilty of committing took place in 1984, 1985 and in 1998, which leaves an unrealistically long period of inactivity. Most serial killers feel that they have to murder in order to achieve a certain level of excitement, which they cannot achieve in any other way. Experts believe that Shermantine was no different and had continued to murder throughout the timespan of 1985 to 1998.

In 2001, Herzog was sentenced to 77 years in prison after being found guilty of three murders. His sentence was shortened to 14 years because it was found that his confession was coerced. Officers had ignored his right to silence, interrogated him for long periods of time and did not give him adequate amounts of food. In 2004 he entered a plea agreement where he would be found guilty of voluntary manslaughter, which caused him to serve much less time in prison. Despite the protests of many people, in 2010 Herzog was paroled. He hung himself outside of his trailer on January 16, 2012. It is believed that Herzog committed suicide after a bounty hunter, Leonard Padilla, informed him that Shermantine intended to release information regarding the locations of the other victims they had murdered. Some of these remains are thought to have been buried on Herzog’s property.

In February of 2012, Shermantine sent a letter to television station CBS-13 in Sacramento. In this letter, Shermantin claimed that he, Herzog and another third male had murdered approximately 72 people. The third male has still not been identified. Another letter was sent in March of 2012, which claimed that he wanted to disclose where the remains of his victims were located. Shermantine had originally begun to reveal the locations of the remains when Leonard Padilla offered him $33,000 for the information. From this point onward Shermantine has given more information to the police regarding different burial sites. It is because of these letters that over 1000 human bone fragments have been discovered outside of a farm in Linden, California. The FBI Evidence Recovery Team has been asked to help in this investigation. Shermantine continues to serve time on death row.

Sources:
Serial killer tells of 70 more victims on Stuff.co.nz
Wesley Shermantine sends new letter to CBS-13 saying he knows of 72 victims in the Washington Post
Wesley Shermantine, ‘Speed Freak Killer,’ Leads Police To Third Body by Paul Elias in the Huffington Post
California Speed Freak Killers on Mayhem.net
Map by ‘Speed Freak Killer’ Wesley Shermantine leads cops to 300 human bones on CBS Crimesider
Speed Freak Killers on Wikipedia
The Speed Freak Killers by Gary C. King on TruTV.com
Methamphetamine on Wikipedia

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