Local authorities announced late Saturday afternoon that after two days of digging, human remains were found on a property in the remote Linden-Peters area after convicted killer Wesley Shermantine Jr. provided directions via a map he had created and mailed to investigators.
After spending nearly 24 hours out with shovels and other heavy digging equipment, San Joaquin County Sheriff's Department spokesman Les Garcia, along with San Joaquin County Sheriff's Department Detective Dave Konecny, said investigators had unearthed human remains around 4 p.m., including a partial skull fragment.
Garcia said investigation crews stopped their efforts late Saturday evening but continued their efforts at the Linden site in hopes of retrieving more remains starting again Sunday morning. The sheriff's department will also begin evaluating when they could begin digging at other wells, Garcia said.
"If we have to, we are going to check them all," he said. "We are not going to walk away from this. We are not going to stop."
It is unclear how many remains could be located in the well, which was called "Loren's Boneyard" by Shermantine in a map he provided to investigators.
The well, located on a property on the 27000 block of East Flood Road, runs approximately 60 feet deep, though the remains that were unearthed Saturday were found at around 35 feet, Garcia said.
According to Leonard Padilla, the bounty hunter who agreed to pay Shermantine in return for the locations of victims' remains, he was pleased remains had been found.
However, he was convinced investigators needed to look at a second well further east on Flood Road to find more remains of Shermantine's and Herzog's victims.
"It is fantastic that they have found remains," he said. "It keeps them energized. Twelve years ago, no one would have come out here to look."
The discovery of the human remains in Linden come on the heels of two days of successful digs in Calaveras County at Shermantine's former property on Leonard Road in San Andreas.
On Thursday, a human skull containing teeth were found in a ravine near the home, and preliminary forensic dental examinations identify the remains as those of Clements resident Cyndi Vanderheiden, who went missing in 1998.
A second skull found with partial clothing remnants on Friday on the Shermantine property is believed to be that of Chevelle "Chevy" Wheeler, a 16-year-old Stockton resident who went missing after she ditched school in 1985.
John Vanderheiden, the father of Cyndi Vanderheiden, said he would wait to hear that DNA results confirmed the identification of the remains.
However, Paula Wheeler, the mother of Chevy Wheeler, said she knew her daughter had been found.
"I don't know how to react because we have never had to deal with this level of certainty before," she said from her home in Tennessee, where she and her family have since moved. "But I can tell you it's been a great day."
Stockton resident Liz Beeson, who drove out to Linden Saturday to check up on progress with the dig, said she had lived down the road from Wheeler before she disappeared.
Beeson had heard that a second human skull had been unearthed Friday, and she said wanted to be there as the investigation continued to unfold more results.
"That could have been anyone's child that was taken that day ... but it was Chevy," she said. "I would go out there and help dig, if only they would give me a shovel."
Contact reporter Katie Nelson at firstname.lastname@example.org.