Two teens identified as victims of ‘Speed Freak’ killers
Hundreds of human bones and fragments found buried in an abandoned well have been linked to the so-called "Speed Freak" killers -- and have been identified as two teens missing since the mid-1980s, San Joaquin County Sheriff Steve Moore said Friday.
Moore said that almost 1,000 bone fragments found in a sealed well in Linden, a Central Valley town east of Stockton, have been linked to three victims. Two have been preliminarily identified as Kimberly Billy and Joanna Hopson. Billy disappeared in December 1984. She was 19 at the time. Hopson, 16, disappeared a year later. The victims were identified using mitochondrial and nuclear DNA tests.
The location of the well had been given to investigators by Wesley Shermantine, a convicted killer. Shermantine and his friend Loren Herzog are believed to be responsible for dozens of drug-fueled slayings that may have spanned more than 15 years
The bones found at the Linden well site were sent to the California Department of Justice crime lab for DNA testing.
Search crews first looked on a property in Calaveras County, where they found the bodies of Chevelle Wheeler and Cyndi Vanderheiden.
There had been talk of starting a new dig at a second sealed well after the first well was completely searched. But despite Shermantine's insistence on its location and validity, the search has not started.
The Department of Justice crime lab is now working to identify the third victim recovered from the Linden well.
Last month, Shermantine sent a letter to Fox 40 Sacramento suggesting that there is still a third killer on the loose. In the three-page letter, he said Herzog trained an apprentice named Jason Jones and taught him "how to kill and get away with it."
He said he has decided to start exposing what they've done.
"I have given Jason a fair warning," Shermantine wrote. "I told [him] he better run, get out of this country before I expose the next site."
-- Sam Cohen and Ian McDonald, Fox 40 Sacramento
Photo: San Joaquin sheriff's deputies and Department of Justice personnel catalog human remains recovered from a well near Linden in February. Credit: Craig Sanders / The Record / Associated Press