Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Speed Freak Killers

Herzog's Trial

Loren Joseph Herzog
Loren Joseph Herzog

Herzog went to trial in August 2001 for the murders of Cyndi Vanderheiden, Howard King III, Paul Cavanaugh, Robin Armtrout, and Henry Howell. Like Shermantine, Herzog had been granted a change of venue to Santa Clara because of extensive pre-trial publicity in San Joaquin County. During his opening statement, Testa admitted that the prosecution did not have conclusive evidence that Herzog had actually committed any murders, but insisted that he was nonetheless also guilty of the crimes either as a principal or accomplice. Much of the same evidence heard at Shermantine's trial was also heard at Herzog's. One of Herzog's attorneys, Kenneth Quigley, maintained that Herzog had not killed anyone but acknowledged that Herzog may have witnessed murders committed by Shermantine.

It took until nearly mid-October 2001 for Herzog's trial to conclude, and then another two weeks for the jury to deliberate. When the jury came back on Monday, October 22, 2001, with its verdict, it found Herzog not guilty of the murders of Robin Armtrout and Henry Howell. The jury convicted him, however, of the first-degree murders of Cyndi Vanderheiden, Howard King III, and Paul Cavanaugh. The verdict did not call for "special circumstances," though, which meant that Herzog would not face the death penalty. On Monday, December 10, 2001, Herzog was sentenced to 78 years in prison by Judge Michael Garrigan, making him eligible for parole at some point.

Few, however, would have expected his release, by parole or other procedure, would occur so soon. A state appeals court ruling in August 2004 paved the way for Herzog's release when it overturned his convictions, finding that police had improperly interrogated him. The police, the appeals court found, had coerced confessions from Herzog by lengthy interrogations while he was fatigued, infringing upon Herzog's rights. The court also found that deputies had not fed him adequately over the four days of questioning, had made threats and promises while they interviewed him, and had delayed his arraignment for more than four days. Deputies also ignored Herzog's efforts to invoke his right to remain silent, the court found.

"We do not reach this result lightly," the court wrote in its decision in ordering a new trial.

The new trial, though, never happened. Although the prosecutor, Testa, maintained that he believed Herzog was guilty of murder, he reluctantly concluded a new jury trial would be too risky.

"The people think that Loren Herzog might be able to pull the wool over the eyes of a jury," Testa said in court.

As a result of the prosecution's concerns that Herzog might convince a jury to acquit him, Testa and Herzog's attorneys in November 2004 worked out a plea agreement in which Herzog would plead guilty to a charge of voluntary manslaughter in Cyndi Vanderheiden's death, to being an accessory in three other murders—Cavanaugh's, King's, and Howell's—and to furnishing methamphetamine to Vanderheiden shortly before her death. Herzog accepted the plea agreement, and Judge F. Clark Sueyres sentenced him to 14 years in prison. Herzog was additionally granted credit for time served, and for good behavior, resulting in his eligibility for parole on September 18, 2010.


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