SAN QUENTIN (CBS) - After 14 years of denying responsibility for a series of murders, convicted serial killer Wesley Shermantine is now admitting to his involvement.
Shermantine sat down with Koula Gianulias of the CBS Sacramento affiliate at San Quentin State Prison in an exclusive interview from death row.
Since February, Shermantine has sent five letters from his cell on death row to CBS. The most recent to Gianulias said he was ready to sit down and meet face to face.
"He just sat a few feet away from me," Gianulias said. "He wasn't cuffed. We were in a cage."
"When I would ask him those difficult questions, he would look down. His face would change," she said.
All along, since his arrest in 1999, he's blamed all of the murders on childhood friend Loren Herzog. Shermantine and Loren Herzog, who authorities say went on a methamphetamine-fueled killing spree in the 1980s and 90s, have been dubbed the Speed Freak Killers. Herzog hanged himself in January after the bounty hunter told him Shermantine was disclosing locations of victims. Now, for the first time, Shermantine's taking some responsibility for horrific crimes spanning two decades.
"I'm sorry for the murders," he said. "My intention is not to cause all this pain."
Gianulias said "I asked him repeatedly if he will ever confess to the murders. At the very end of our two-hour interview, he admitted 'I had an active role.'"
Shermantine wouldn't give any names, telling Gianulias he's going to reveal the whole story in a book. She asked if he will confess to specific murders in that book.
"Some of them, I'm gonna have to," he said.
John Vanderheiden said Shermantine is just out for publicity and more money. But he still wants him to keep talking to help victims' families. Just three months ago, Shermantine's maps and letters led investigators to the remains of Vanderheiden's daughter Cyndi, missing since 1998.
"He'll never get any forgiveness as far as I'm concerned," Vanderheiden said. "He can still burn in hell, and I hope we execute him."
When Gianulias asked Shermantine why he's confessing after all these years of denial, he said people need to know the truth and that he owes it to his children. Shermantine said one of his sons no longer speaks to him and that caused him to think about the loss suffered by victims' families.
"I don't know what it's like to lose a child," he said. "Only thing I can compare it to is my son Wes stopped speaking to me. And it doesn't compare to that."
Gianulias said parts of her interview with the killer were particularly difficult.
"As I searched his face for signs of remorse, he claimed to have many regrets, and two twisted memories that still haunt him," she said. "I'm not going to share some of the details because they were very difficult to hear. But they basically involved one incident where he said he had to bury a girl that he knew, one of his friends.
"He also shared a very disturbing story, that I had a very hard time listening to, about a pregnant woman very far along in her pregnancy. And he said he walked in on Loren Herzog and another man torturing this woman. And eventually she was put out of her misery."
He said, "to think about the stuff that I did, I try not to. I would have nightmares."
Shermantine said he will share his complete confession in a book. He said he'll tell the whole story by the year 2020. When asked why that year, he said "That's when I'm leaving. By then, I will have had enough of this place."
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