Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Speed Freak Killers

Chevelle 'Chevy' Yvonne Wheeler


Chevelle 'Chevy' Wheeler
Chevelle "Chevy" Wheeler
While it is difficult to pinpoint with certainty the killers' first victim, unless one believed Herzog's statement to investigators, it is suspected that Chevelle "Chevy" Wheeler, 16, was likely among the first. She skipped school on Wednesday, October 16, 1985, and was last seen getting into a red pickup truck outside Franklin High School in Stockton, Calif., that day. She had told friends that she was cutting classes and going with a male friend to Valley Springs, Calif. She had seemed apprehensive about making the trip, the friend said, and she had asked her friend to inform her father of what she had done if she did not return by the end of the school day. When Chevy failed to return, the friend indeed told her father who, in turn, notified the police. Authorities quickly identified the friend with whom she had skipped school that day as Wesley Shermantine Jr., 19, who was also acquainted with Wheeler's family. Police also determined that Shermantine owned a red pickup truck.

Members of Chevy's family told police that Shermantine had called their home the morning of Chevy's disappearance. When questioned by detectives, Shermantine denied any involvement with the girl and proclaimed his innocence to her family. However, investigators sensed that he was lying. They learned that his family owned a cabin in San Andreas, Calif., and when they searched it they found blood and hair evidence. Although the blood samples matched Chevy's blood type, it was not enough immediately to bring forth charges against Shermantine: DNA-testing technology in 1985 could not analyze samples with the precision available today. In 1985, though, detectives believed with good cause that the blood and hair belonged to Chevy, but had to acknowledge that they lacked the authoritative analysis to sustain their theory in court. By the end of the 20th century, of course, DNA technology had made many significant advances, and detectives submitted the blood and hair evidence to the crime lab again. It turned out that the samples taken from the cabin indeed matched Chevy Wheeler.

Armed with the new evidence and, after linking the two suspected killers, Shermantine and Herzog were arrested on Thursday, March 18, 1999, on suspicion of murder. Both men were later charged with the kidnapping and murder of Cyndi Vanderheiden. Using the evidence collected at the San Andreas cabin where, detectives learned, Shermantine had been living for quite some time, Shermantine was subsequently charged with Chevy Wheeler's murder 14 years earlier.

Although authorities had remained tight-lipped about their investigation, court officials at the time suggested to staff reporters with The Record, a newspaper serving San Joaquin County, that the two men had implicated each other in a number of slayings. At one point Shermantine pointed out to the detectives that Herzog possessed a key to the San Andreas cabin, and that he had also been friends with Chevy.

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