Wesley Shermantine and Loren Herzog

The Speed Freak Killers

Meth Drug Pipe with lighter

Apolinar B. Fonseca/Getty Images

Wesley Shermantine and Loren Herzog were dubbed the "Speed Freak Killers" after a 15-year methamphetamine drug-induced killing spree that began in 1984 and ended in 1999.

Childhood Friends

Loren Herzog and Wesley Shermantine, Jr. were childhood friends, having grown up on the same street in the small farming town of Linden, California. Shermantine's father was a successful contractor who showered Wesley with material things throughout his young life.

He was also an avid hunter and would often take both boys hunting and fishing until they were old enough to go on their own.

The boys spent much of their childhood exploring the hills, rivers, rocks and the mineshafts of San Joaquin County.

Serial Killers Emerge

Herzog and Shermantine remained best friends through high school and into adulthood. It seems that what one did the other did including bullying, hard drinking, and eventually serious drugging.

After high school they shared an apartment for a while in nearby Stockton and their involvement in drugs, especially methamphetamine, escalated. Together their behavior spiraled downward and a dark side emerged. Everyone who brushed by them was a potential victim and they managed to literally get away with murder for years.

Murderous Rampage

Investigators now believe that Herzog and Shermantine began murdering people when they were around 18 or 19 years old, however, it is possible it started earlier. It was later determined that they were responsible for the cold-blooded murder of friends and strangers alike. Why they murdered seemed to be determined by what they needed - sex, money, or simply for the thrill of the hunt.

They seemed to wallow in their evil and at times they would make comments that alluded to the danger that those who crossed them might find. Shermantine was known for bragging to his family and friends about making people disappear in Stockton.

During an attack on a woman he allegedly tried to rape, he pushed her head to the ground and told her she should "listen to the heartbeats of people I've buried here. Listen to the heartbeats of families I've buried here."

The two were arrested in March 1999 for suspicion of the murder of two girls who were missing. Chevelle "Chevy" Wheeler, 16, had been missing since October 16, 1985, and Cyndi Vanderheiden, 25, vanished on November 14, 1998.

Once in custody the childhood bond that Herzog and Shermantine quickly dissolved.

17-Hour Interrogation

The San Joaquin detectives began what turned out to be an intensive 17-hour interrogation of Loren Herzog, most of which was videotaped.

Herzog quickly turned on his best friend, describing Shermantine as a cold-blooded killer who would kill for no reason. He told detectives that Shermantine was responsible for at least 24 murders.

He described an incident when Shermantine shot a hunter who they ran into while they were on vacation in Utah in 1994. Utah police confirmed that a hunter was shot to death, but that it was still classified as an unsolved murder.

He also said that Shermantine was responsible for killing Henry Howell who was found parked off the road with his teeth and head bashed in. Herzog's said that he and Shermantine passed Howell parked on the highway and that Shermantine stopped, grabbed his shotgun, and killed Howell and then robbed what little money he had.

Herzog also said that Shermantine killed Howard King and Paul Raymond in 1984. Tire marks matching his truck were found at the scene.

He gave specific details as to how Chevelle Wheeler, Cyndi Vanderheiden, and Robin Armtrout were kidnapped, raped and killed and said that during it all he just watched.

Ready to Head Home

One can only speculate as to the truth in what Herzog told detectives. All of what he said was self-serving, with the intent of making it out that Shermantine was the killer, the monster, and he (Herzog) was another one of Shermantine's victims. When asked why he never stopped Shermantine or called the police, he said he was scared.

It was later said that Herzog really expected to be released after the interrogation so that he could return home to his wife and children, knowing that Shermantine would no longer be a danger to him. Of course, that did not happen, at least not right away.

The Interrogation of Shermantine

Shermantine had little to say during the 1999 interrogation. He told investigators that on the night that Vanderheiden went missing that he met Herzog at a bar, had some drinks, played pool and spoke briefly to Cyndi Vanderheiden. He said in fact that he barely noticed her and that she left an hour before he left to go home. It was not until he saw the tapes of what Herzog told the interrogators that Shermantine began to do his own form of finger-pointing.

He told reporters, "...If Loren can give details about all these murders, it must mean he's the one that did them. I'm innocent...With everything Loren told detectives, I'd bet my life there were other bodies out there."

On Trial for Murder

Wesley Shermantine was charged with the first-degree murder of Chevy Wheeler, Cyndi Vanderheiden, Paul Cavanaugh, and Howard King.

During Shermantine's trial, right before the sentencing phase, he agreed to tell officials where the bodies of four of Shermantine's victims could be found in exchange for $20,000, but no deal was ever made.

Prosecutors offered to remove the death penalty from the table if he gave them information on where they could find the bodies, but he turned them down.

He was found guilty of the four murders and given the death penalty. He now resides on death row in San Quentin State Prison.

Loren Herzog was charged with murdering Cyndi Vanderheiden, Howard King, Paul Cavanaugh, Robin Armtrout and to the accessory to the murder of Henry Howell. He was found not guilty of being an accessory to the murder of Henry Howell, acquitted in the murder of Robin Armtrout, but was found guilty of first-degree murder of Cyndi Vanderheiden, Howard King, and Paul Cavanaugh. He was given a 78-year sentence.

Herzog Conviction Overturned

In August 2004, a state appeals court overturned Herzog's conviction, saying that police coerced his confession during the long interrogation sessions. They also said that the police ignored Herzog's rights to remain silent, deprived him of food and sleep and delayed his arraignment for four days.

A new trial was ordered, but Herzog's lawyers worked out a plea deal with prosecutors.

Herzog agreed to plead guilty to manslaughter in the Vanderheiden case and to being an accessory to the murders of King, Howell, ​and Cavanaugh. He also accepted a charge of giving Vanderheiden methamphetamine.

In exchange, ​he received a 14-year sentence with credit for time served. Herzog was out on parole on September 18, 2010, as scheduled.

He was sent to a modular home inside the High Desert State Prison grounds in Lassen County, around 200 miles from Stockton away from many of the relatives of his victims and those who testified against him in court.

The citizens of Lassen County were livid at the thought of such a person being placed in their community. Safety measures were taken to protect the community from the new resident.

Condition of Parole

Even though Herzog had been paroled from prison he was still under the watchful eyes of the authorities.

The conditions of his parole were:

  • He was required to wear a GPS bracelet that alerted his parole officer if he went more than 150 feet from his small fifth-wheel trailer.
  • He and all visitors had to check in and out with a gatehouse operator.
  • He could not leave his trailer between the hours of 8:30 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. and from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.
  • Because of the tight restrictions, ​he was not required to work.

Basically, he was out of prison, isolated and alone, and still under the watchful eye of prison authorities.

Shermantine's Revenge?

Some say he needed money for candy bars, others say he couldn't stand the thought of Herzog being set free, but either way in December 2011 Wesley Shermantine offered again to reveal the locations of the bodies of several victims in exchange for money. He referred to the areas as Herzog's "party area" and continued to deny responsibility for murdering anyone. Bounty hunter Leonard Padilla agreed to pay him $33,000.

Herzog Commits Suicide

On Jan. 17, 2012, Loren Herzog was found dead hanging in his trailer. Leonard Padilla said he spoke with Herzog earlier in the day to warn him to get a lawyer because Shermantine was turning over maps of where they buried the bodies of their victims.

Herzog left behind a suicide note that said, "Tell my family I love them."

Painted in Hate

An autopsy of Loren Herzog was performed and in the report, the various tattoos found on his body was described in detail. Reportedly much of his skin was covered in satanic images including skulls and flames.

Running down the length of his left legs were the words, "Made And Fueled by Hate and Restrained By Reality" and on his right foot was a tattoo that read, "Made The Devil Do It."

Serial Killers Keep Killing

Investigators have long said that the Speed Freak Killers were probably responsible for at least 24 or more murders. It is highly unlikely that the duo killed in 1984 then stopped and did not kill again until November 14, 1998. If anything the number of murders from serial killers increase as time goes on as does their confidence in their ability to outsmart the police.

Both killers pointed to the other one and said that they were cold-blooded, but it is doubtful that the true number of victims that died at the hands of these killers will ever be known.

Burial Sites Disclosed

In February 2012, Shermantine provided maps to five burial sites where he said some of Herzog's victims would be found. Referring to an area near San Andreas as Herzog's "boneyard" investigators found the remains of Cyndi Vanderheiden and Chevelle Wheeler.

Investigators also found almost 1,000 human bone fragments in an old abandoned well as they excavated one of five burial sites marked on Sermantine's map.

Shermantine turned over the maps after bounty hunter Leonard Padilla agreed to pay him $33,000.

Holding the Best for Last

In March 2012, Shermantine wrote a letter to a local television station in Sacramento where he claims he can lead investigators to more of Herzog's victims and a third man involved in the murders. He claimed that there are as many as 72 victims. But he said until Leonard Padilla pays him the $33,000 that he said he would pay, he will not give the information up.

"I really want to believe in Leonard, but I have these doubts he'll come through, which is a shame because I've been holding the best for last," Shermantine wrote.

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Montaldo, Charles. "Wesley Shermantine and Loren Herzog." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/wesley-shermantine-and-loren-herzog-973133. Montaldo, Charles. (2023, April 5). Wesley Shermantine and Loren Herzog. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/wesley-shermantine-and-loren-herzog-973133 Montaldo, Charles. "Wesley Shermantine and Loren Herzog." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/wesley-shermantine-and-loren-herzog-973133 (accessed May 30, 2023).