Convicted Killer Loren Herzog Found Dead by Parole Agents in California

Loren Herzog was originally convicted of multiple murders, but reach plea deal.

ByABC News
January 17, 2012, 5:06 PM

Jan 17, 2012 -- A convicted killer's body was found late last night and is being investigated as a possible suicide, officials tell ABC News.

Parolee Loren Herzog, 46, was found dead inside a trailer on California state property grounds right outside the perimeter of High Desert State Prison in Susanville, where he lived for more than a year after being released from prison.

A parole agent was in charge of monitoring Herzog around the clock through the use of a Global Positioning System monitor (GPS), worn on Herzog's ankle. The agent was alerted when the device bracelet was indicating a low battery.

After unsuccessful phone contact attempts, the agent called High Desert State Prison staff, who went to the residence and discovered Herzog's unresponsive body.

"The death is being investigated and is pending a complete autopsy, so at this moment we can't say what the cause of death or the condition of the body was," said Luis Patino, Information Officer for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR).

Herzog was released from prison in September 2010 after serving a reduced 14-year sentence for voluntary manslaughter, three counts of being an accessory to a felony, and one count for transportation of a controlled substance, according to a release from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

He was originally sentenced to 78 years to life for numerous first degree murder charges with childhood friend Wesley Shermantine. The pair, who were dubbed the "Speed Freak Killers," were also convicted for the 1998 rape and murder of Cyndi Vanderheiden, whose body was never found.

According to court records, in August 2004, a state appellate court ordered a new trial for Herzog after defense attorneys found indications that detectives may have used coercive tactics to get a taped confession for the murders. Months later, Herzog's attorneys bargained a plea deal and he pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter charges, a judge reduced his sentence to 14 years. This decision bypassed a retrial.

Herzog was released from prison in September 2010. According to California law, a parolee is to return to the county of last legal residence, in this case San Joaquin County. However victims and their family members can make sure the parolee lives at least 35 miles from their residence. Due to all the unsolved murders and cases linked to Herzog, several people turned in requests to have him far from their homes, eliminating San Joaquin as an option.

Patino said at that point the state had to find a place for Herzog and decided to have him live in a trailer on fenced off property grounds outside the prison.

"He had served the sentence so we couldn't keep him incarcerated," Patino said. "Agents could see if he was in the area through the GPS device and he had a strict no-contact list, he even had to request permission to leave the grounds, but he was still limited with regards to places he could go."

Patino also told ABC News that Herzog had regular meetings with parole agents, but that he could not discuss the status of his mental health condition recently due to California privacy laws.

Cyndi Vanderheiden's family did not immediately respond to calls from ABC News, but in an interview with the The Stockton Record, her father, John Vanderheiden said he wanted proof Herzog was dead and he would be willing to drive to Susanville.

"As long as he's dead, that's great," Vanderheiden told the Stockton Record. "That's what he deserves."

According to officials, the death is under review by multiple agencies, including the Lassen County District Attorney's Office, the Lassen County Sheriff's Office and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's Investigative Services Unit.