Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Speed Freak Killers

Release Controversy

Much to the mortification of the residents of Lassen County, Calif., Herzog was paroled to their area upon his release from prison in San Joaquin County: some of his victims' relatives successfully petitioned to have his release moved out San Joaquin County, where many of his alleged crimes had been committed. Originally scheduled for release in July 2010, prison officials discovered that his sentence required him to serve several additional weeks. The discrepancy over the release date was chalked up to a "clerical error." Although a number of influential politicians had tried in vain to keep Herzog locked up, the prison system said that there was little they could do given Herzog's sentence and the ruling of the parole board. Dozens of area residents protested in Susanville three days before his scheduled release date.

Protest against Herzog's release
Protest against Herzog's release

It was established that Herzog's parole would be for three years, supervised. Another condition of his parole, according to Sacramento's News 10, was that Herzog be housed in a modular home on the grounds of neighboring High Desert State Prison in Susanville. Although the property is owned by the state prison system, it is located outside the perimeter of the prison itself. Herzog is required to wear a GPS monitoring device tracked 24 hours a day, and is subject to a curfew.

Nonetheless, thousands of residents are upset over Herzog's release into their county. At the time of his release, many people were organizing to take their protest to the governor's office.

"Everybody was completely outraged," said an area resident to CBS 12 Action News. "The bottom line is nobody heard about it until the last minute."

Assemblyman Dan Logue, a Republican from the California State Assembly's 3rd District, was among those who had fought to keep Herzog in jail.

"I cannot believe that the parole board let this guy out so early," Logue said. "He still has years to serve, so I'm looking into the reasons behind that also."

Logue's attempt to keep Herzog behind bars by utilizing a civil commitment law, which would have required the district attorney, through the court system, to have a mental evaluation done to determine if Herzog still possessed a propensity for violence, but was unsuccessful.

"He can still get in his vehicle and go wherever he wants to go," said an area resident. "The ankle bracelet is not going to stop him from going anywhere in a small town like that."

"There is no bigger injustice," John Vanderheiden, Cyndi Vanderheiden's father, said of Herzog's release. "All Herzog's release is doing is making me relive it all over again....Our justice system just didn't do its job."

His own demons, however, finally carried out what the justice system couldn't do to Herzog.  On January 16, 2012, he was found dead in his trailer, parked just outside the walls of High Desert State Prison.  According to authorities, Herzog had hung himself.  Hours before his body was discovered, a bounty hunter, Leonard Padilla, had spoken with Herzog on the phone.  He told him that he had made an agreement with Shermantine to pay up to $30,000 for the locations of the bodies, money Shermantine would use to pay off the restitution he owes.  Padilla hoped to make back the sum via rewards from the families of the missing victims.  What may have tipped Herzog over the edge was that, according to Padilla, Shermantine was ready to reveal details about ten bodies in a well on Herzog's own property.  In a simple suicide note, Herzog wrote, "Tell my family I love them."


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