Chevelle Wheeler - Victim of the Speed Freak Killers

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The Murder of Chevelle Wheeler

Chevelle Wheeler
Chevelle Wheeler. Family Photo

Chevelle "Chevy" Wheeler was 16 years old when she went missing outside of the Franklin High School in Stockton, California in 1985. Stockton investigators believe that she was likely among one of the first victims of serial killers Wesley Shermantine Jr. and Leron Herzog, later known as the "Speed Freak Killers".

October 16, 1985

On October 16, 1985, Chevy told her friends that she was skipping school to spend the day in the mountains in Valley Springs, California with a male friend. The last anyone saw of her was when she was getting into a red pickup truck at school.

One friend described Chevy as apprehensive when she talked about going with the male friend. She told police that Chevy asked her to tell her father where she went in case she did not return to school later that day. When she failed to return to school her friend told Chevy's father what she knew and he called the police.

A Family Acquaintance

Wesley Shermantine, Jr., who was 19 at the time, was identified as the man Chevy had gone with on that day. The Wheeler family knew Shermantine. He was first introduced to Chevy when he went to the Wheeler home to show Chevy's father the sound system and audio speakers he had hooked up in his truck. After that he regularly stopped by at their house to visit with Chevy and the two would listen to music together.

On the day she went missing he had called to speak to her that morning. He also owned a red truck. But when the police went to question him about her whereabouts Shermantine denied meeting her and said he knew nothing that could help police find the missing girl. He also contacted her family and told them he had nothing to do with their missing daughter.

The Cabin in San Andreas

Investigators continued to treat Shermantine as their prime suspect. They searched a cabin in San Andreas, California that Shermantine's father owned and where Shermantine and Herzog often spent time in.

There they collected both blood and hair samples which investigators believed belonged to Chevy Wheeler, but in 1985 DNA testing was not advanced enough to make a positive match.

Without enough proof connecting Shermantine to Wheeler, Shermantine was let go and her case remained unsolved.

14 Years Later

In 1999, armed with new DNA technology, the tests on the hair and blood samples was done again and a positive match was made to Chevy Wheeler. Both Leron Herzog and Shermantine were arrested in March 1999 and charged with her murder.

While under interrogation Shermantine and Herzog blamed each other for murdering Chevy Wheeler. Herzog described in detail how Shermantine bragged about raping, beating and murdering the young girl. He also said Shermantine was living in the cabin during the time that the girl went missing.

Shermantime told investigators that Herzog was responsible for killing Wheeler and said that he was also friends with her and that he had access to the cabin because he had a key.

Cruel Taunts

Chevy Wheeler's parents attended their daughter's murder trials almost daily. Shermantine used the opportunity to taunt the Wheelers by saying things to them about Chevy.

One day during the trial, while in what appeared to be tears, he told the Wheelers that he would never kill Chevy, insisting that she was his friend. Then on another day he told them that when he died everyone would know where he was buried, but no one would ever know where Chevy was buried. He went back and forth like this throughout the trial.

In May 2001 Shermantine was found guilty of murdering Wheeler along with Cynthia Vanderheiden who went missing in 1998 and Paul Cavanauh and Howard King who were found murdered along the side of a road in 1984.

Before being sentenced Shermantine tried to make a deal with lead investigators where he agreed to tell where the bodies of their victims could be located in exchange for $20,000. No deal was made.

Prosecutors tried to get Shermantine to agree to tell where the bodies of his victims could be found in exchange for removing the possibility of him receiving the death penalty. Shermantine refused.

The jury recommended the death penalty for Shemantine and the judge agreed.

The Promise of Drugs

Police believe that Herzog and Shermantine were meth-crazed serial killers who were responsible for at least 24 murders in and around Stockton, California. It is believed that they lured some of their victims with the promise of drugs.

Many doubt that this was the tactic used to talk Chevelle Wheeler into going off with Shermantine on that October day, but rather that of vulnerable 16 year old girl who was flattered by the attention she received from a manipulative older male.

Herzog's Bone Yard

Herzog, who was found guilty of murdering Cyndi Vanderheiden and two others, but was released from prison after his conviction was overturned due to his confession being coerced by police.

In January 2012 he committed suicide just hours after being told that Shermantine was going to give authorities information on where the bodies of Herzog's victims could be located. He referred to it as Herzog's bone yard.

Going Home

In late February 2012, the

remains of Chevelle Wheeler were found

in Calaveras County after Shermantine provided maps of where he said Leron Herzog buried Wheeler and other victims. Her remains were returned to her parents on February 27, 2012.