SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CBS/AP) Loren Herzog and Wesley Shermantine terrorized the rural San Joaquin County region in a rampage that spanned 15 years.
Now Herzog, half of the methamphetamine-fueled duo known as the "Speed Freak Killers" is scheduled to be released from prison in the coming days, and a community that was once at ease is stricken with fear.
The two were originally convicted of numerous first-degree murder charges, including the 1998 rape and murder of Cyndi Vanderheiden, but Friday, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said Herzog will be paroled from Norco prison in Riverside County, Calif. and relocated to the state's isolated northeast area sometime in mid-September, but an exact date was not released.
Meanwhile, Shermantine remains on California's Death Row.
San Joaquin County Deputy District Attorney Thomas Testa hopes that the news of Herzog's release will prompt new witnesses to come forward and help resolve several unsolved murders the pair is suspected of committing. According to witnesses, Shermantine bragged about killing 19 people.
Herzog and Shermantine lured Vanderheiden to a cemetery telling her that she would receive methamphetamines. Herzog testified that he hid in the back of Shermantine's car while his friend attacked Vanderheiden and then helped to put her body in the trunk, but said he doesn't know what Shermantine did after that. Vanderheiden's body was never found.
Herzog was sentenced to 78 years in prison on three first-degree murder convictions, but in 2004 the California Court of Appeal ruled that Herzog's detailed statements that amounted to a confession were illegally coerced. Without the videotaped confession from his 1999 arrest, prosecutors were left with very little evidence against Herzog and were forced to offer him a deal to plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter for the killing of Vanderheiden.
Herzog's 78 year sentence was reduced to 14 years. The prison system can no longer hold him because Herzog already has credit for time served from his 1999 arrest and his sentencing was reduced for good behavior. It's a sobering reality that does not sit well with the Vanderheiden family.
"There is no bigger injustice," said John Vanderheiden, the father of the duo's last known victim. "All Herzog's release is doing is making me relive it all over again."