Convicted killer Loren Herzog is coming home to San Joaquin County, after all, when he is paroled Sunday.
Parole officials had planned to send the former Linden man to Tehama County, where he would be more than two hours away from the family members of Cyndi Vanderheiden. They had requested that the Clements woman’s admitted killer stay away from them.
On Monday, plans changed, said Luis Patino, spokesman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Parole officials reviewed victim rights laws and determined that Herzog can still return to his county of residence, as long as he stays 35 miles away from the Vanderheiden family.
“It’s just so depressing. It just makes us worry more,” said Theresa Vanderheiden, mother of the victim.
Her 25-year-old daughter disappeared in Nov. 1998 and has never been seen again. Herzog and his childhood friend Wesley Shermantine were convicted of multiple murders, and Shermantine is now sitting on death row. Herzog had been sentenced to 78 years in prison, but he won an appeal that threw out three of the four murder convictions, as well as much of the evidence. He then plea bargained to a 14-year sentence for voluntary manslaughter, and that time has now been served.
California law allows victims and their family members to have some role in deciding where convicts will be paroled. Officials had originally interpreted law to mean that Herzog must be at least 35 miles away from San Joaquin County.
However, on Monday parole officials determined the law refers to the family’s home, not the whole county in which they live.
He won’t be allowed in Lodi or other parts of the northern county, but Tracy and Ripon are roughly 42 and 38 miles, respectively, from Clements.
Theresa Vanderheiden wondered how parole agents will really know if Herzog crosses the invisible 35-mile barrier, noting that the state budget has caused cuts in every department.
“They told me that if he even spits on the sidewalk he’s going back (to prison), but who’s going to monitor it?” she asked.
Meanwhile, Red Bluff residents were relieved to learn that Herzog would not be living in Tehama County, south of Redding. They learned Monday morning of the parole plans, and some immediately took their concerns to the Internet. At least one person contacted a state assemblyman, seeking help in keeping Herzog from moving there.
April Bennett runs RedBluffIsMyTown.com, a blog for the Red Bluff Daily News that also feeds to a Facebook group, where residents were starting to protest the parole decision. She saw the Herzog name, and though she’s not from San Joaquin County, she remembered hearing about the case.
“We don’t want him here,” she said. “My condolences to the family. Being so far away and knowing how I feel and our community feels, I can’t imagine how hurt they feel. There’s really no place for a killer like that. I’m grateful that our community that doesn’t have to house him but I feel sorry for any community that will house him.”