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Bounty hunter fears he prompted suicide of 'Speed Freak Killer'

January 19, 2012 |  1:55 pm

When a Sacramento-area bounty hunter heard about the suicide of paroled killer Loren Herzog on Tuesday morning, he thought maybe he had caused it.

Leonard Padilla has been working with the family of Cyndi Vanderheiden, and other families of alleged victims of the “Speed Freak Killers,” for more than a decade. Herzog and his childhood friend Wesley Shermantine were dubbed the “Speed Freak Killers” after being linked to about 19 deaths over a 20-year span.

Padilla told Fox 40 News Shermantine has offered to reveal the locations where he alleged additional victims could be found, and Padilla has been working with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and others to work out some sort of exchange for information.

Padilla had called Herzog about three or four weeks ago to update him on what Shermantine was saying, and promised to keep the paroled man informed on his ex-partner.

Padilla believes Herzog may have had legal recourse against new claims of involvement in Vanderheiden’s death, and that of others, but “he knew there was nothing he could do about a well on his property with bodies in it.”

Then, on Monday afternoon Padilla called Herzog to update him on the latest he had learned. “I think an upfront statement was required by me to him so he wouldn’t be blindsided; I did tell him I thought Wes [Shermantine] was blindsiding him,” Padilla told FOX 40.

“I told him that we were talking to Shermantine … that we had maps and stuff. I told him that Shermantine had spoken further about Herzog’s involvement with Cyndi’s [Vanderheiden] death. He didn’t say much,” Padilla said.

But then Padilla mentioned the details Shermantine was giving about the covered-up well on Herzog’s property.

“When it came to the well, with the 10 burned bodies in it … he seemed, not agitated, but concerned,” Padilla recalled. “I told him … that I could try to get an attorney to help him. And that he needed legal assistance at this time. Shermantine has legal immunity; he’s on death row. Herzog doesn’t have that.”

After that, Padilla said, Herzog just said, “Thank you for calling me. I appreciate that you are keeping me up to date,” then hung up.

The next morning, Padilla was woken up with the news that Herzog had hanged himself in his trailer in Susanville.

--Sam Cohen, Fox 40 Sacramento