Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Speed Freak Killers

Serial Killers—or Not?

In 1999, shortly after the duo's arrests, Shermantine hinted that at least one body, possibly others, may have been hidden in an abandoned mine shaft in eastern San Joaquin County. Investigators learned that Herzog and Shermantine, while growing up in Linden, had sometimes explored mineshafts in the area, and Herzog had once remarked in a drunken stupor that the mineshafts would be a "great place to hide a body," according to Shermantine's comments to The Record.

Wesley Howard Shermantine
Wesley Howard Shermantine

"He'd get to drinking and crying and telling me about all the things he'd done wrong in his life," Shermantine said about Herzog. "Then he'd start telling me the places he'd put people."

Cops and prosecutors had to wonder, however, which one, if either, was telling the truth and which one, if not both, was lying.

"I don't think you can believe a word Wes Shermantine says," said Herzog's attorney, Deputy Public Defender Peter Fox.

According to the timeline of their alleged crimes, including ones for which they were convicted, Herzog and Shermantine had killed five people before turning 21, yet did not kill again for more than a decade. Typically a serial killer will have a cooling-off period ranging from a few days to a few months, depending upon the individual killer's cycle of violence, but a voluntary, decade-long cooling-off period would be without precedent. It was, of course, possible, even likely, that the pair had continued killing during that period, but police had not linked the pair to the deaths. In San Joaquin County alone there were 190 unsolved killings that needed to be examined for any link to Herzog and Shermantine.

"It would be irresponsible for us not to look at any unsolved murders from that time frame and see if there's a correlation with these two suspects," said Mike Padilla, spokesman for the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Office, in 1999. "The investigation is ongoing."

Greg Cooper
Greg Cooper

"There are definitely other bodies out there," said Greg Cooper, then chief of the Provo Police Department in Utah and a former FBI profiler. "These guys wouldn't have been inactive from 1985 to 1998, not unless...they were incarcerated, or they were dead."

Cooper said at the time that it appeared that Shermantine and Herzog had been improving their killing skills as time went on. He noted that their earlier killings indicated novices at work, but the later victims—including those whose bodies may have not yet turned up yet—indicated the pair had learned how better to conceal their crimes.

A number of jurisdictions reported looking at unsolved murders that were still on their books to see if they could be connected to either Herzog or Shermantine, or both. After Herzog's recent release from prison many people, including Testa, are hopeful that evidence will be found linking Herzog to other unsolved murders so that he can be charged, tried and returned to prison.

 

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