Partial Remains Found of Possible Speed Freak Killers' Victims

PHOTO: Remains found of Speed Freak Killers VictimsPlayCalifornia Department of Corrections/AP Photo
WATCH 13 Year Mystery Solved?

Nearly three decades after her disappearance, investigators may have solved the mystery of 16-year-old Chevelle "Chevy" Wheeler.

The San Joaquin County, Calif., Sherriff's Office conducted a search for human remains after information from death row inmate and infamous "Speed Freak Killer" Wesley Shermantine, led authorities to the burial ground of the missing teen.

San Joaquin Sherriff Steve Moore called the Wheeler residence in Crossville, Tenn., Friday morning, to inform them that a skull and other human remains, along with clothes matching the description of what Chevy Wheeler was last seen wearing, had been found.

"Police said they had a diagram from the guy that killed my daughter and they went out and did some digging," said Raymond Wheeler, Chevy's father. "I just can't believe that devil decided to speak out over 20 years later."

Investigators, using specially trained dogs, began their search Thursday along after Stockton Record reporter Scott Smith tipped them off with information and a detailed map of where victims' remains were buried. Smith had been in contact with Shermantine for years and during an exchange of letters the convicted killer confessed to where he and childhood friend Loren Herzog hid human remains.

The locations included property that once belonged to the Shermantine family, along with a well in an old cattle ranch labeled by Shermantine as "Loren's boneyard" for his accomplice.

"Thursday we found a first set of remains, and after preliminary tests conducted on a partial skull we're led to believe they may be that of Cyndi Vanderheiden," said Deputy Les Garcia of the San Joaquin Sheriff's Office.

Vanderheiden was 25 years old when she was last seen in front of her Linden, Calif., home in 1998. Garcia said her family members were also contacted and were informed that these were just preliminary findings. He also told ABC News that these remains were found about a quarter of a mile away from property once owned by Shermantine's family in Calaveras County, Calif..

A second search conducted Friday on property that formerly belonged to Shermantine and his family led to a second set of partial human remains along with articles of clothing.

"The clothes they found match the exact description of what Chevy was wearing that day my wife dropped her off at school," Wheeler said. "My wife still remembers exactly what she had on the last time we saw her."

The girl's father was also told by investigators that the remains were found wrapped inside a blanket and that DNA tests conducted by the Department of Justice would provide a positive identification.

Chevelle 'Chevy' Wheeler's Disappearance

Paula Wheeler drove her daughter to school the morning she went missing. Her husband told ABC News that his daughter's last words to her mother were, "Goodbye mom, I love you."

That day would be the last time they saw their daughter. She decided to cut school and left with Shermantine after he drove up to the school and she got inside his pick-up truck.

"I warned her about that boy and told her to stay away from him," Wheeler said. "She was a good kid and I don't know why she let herself get influenced by someone like him."

After his daughter's disappearance and Shermantine's arrest, Wheeler said investigators told him she might have been stabbed and killed inside the pick-up truck, but years later her remains were never found. Shermantine vowed to never tell anyone where he buried his victims. The day he was sentenced to death he turned around and looked at the Wheelers and said "at least my parents will know where I'm buried, you'll never know where she is."

Wheeler said he and his wife plan to go to California and pick up the remains, pending the coroner's findings. They plan to cremate their daughter's remains and take the ashes back to their home in Tennessee.

"Friday was the happiest day of my life, a cloud has been lifted from our heads and we'll finally get to bring her home."

Shermantine was convicted of four murders and sentenced to death.

Herzog was convicted of three murders and sentenced to 77 years to life in prison. Years later, an appeals court threw out his first-degree murder convictions after ruling his confession had been coerced and illegally obtained by authorities. He was let go and paroled to a trailer outside the High Desert State Prison in Susanville, Calif.

Last month Herzog committed suicide after receiving a call from Sacramento bounty hunter Leonard Padilla informing him Shermantine agreed to disclose the locations of their victims.

Padilla has been following the "Speed Freak Killers" cases closely and has even worked with a former FBI investigator who interviewed Shermantine while on death row. According to Wheeler, Padilla offered the convicted murderer $33,000 in exchange for him to disclose the locations of his victims' remains. Shermantine agreed to the deal.

Since then authorities have also turned their attention to a third location, not far from where the other remains were found. Shermantine indicated that a possible additional 10 bodies could be found inside a well located at an old cattle ranch in Linden, Calif.

"We've been working non-stop, and we're still there today with all the heavy machinery needed for this type of excavation," Garcia told ABC News. He also said the operation hasn't been easy due to all the debris that's been found and having to be lifted as they continue digging.

"We're committed to stay out here until we find these remains and give closure to the families," Garcia said.

According to an Associated Press report, Shermantine said he wants the money to pay off an $18,000 restitution order that prevents him from buying luxuries like candy bars that inmates with money in their accounts can afford. He also said he'd like to use the rest to buy headstones for his deceased parents.

"He deserves exactly what he did to his victims and should be put to death soon and whatever money he gets he should give it to all the victim's family," Wheeler said.