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Convicted killer Loren Herzog commits suicide

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Posted: Tuesday, January 17, 2012 7:37 am | Updated: 9:11 am, Tue Jan 28, 2014.

Loren Herzog, convicted in the killing of Cyndi Vanderheiden of Clements, committed suicide by hanging Monday night, according to prison officials.

Herzog’s body was found late Monday night in a trailer on the grounds of High Desert State Prison near Susanville. He had been living at the prison since being paroled for the 1998 killing of Vanderheiden. He was 46.

He was pronounced dead Tuesday morning.

Herzog died a virtual pariah, as officials, including those in San Joaquin County, rejected his release to their jurisdictions.

Vanderheiden’s mother, Terri Vanderheiden, said she was numb this morning upon hearing the news of Herzog’s death. Her daughter’s body has not been recovered.

“I don’t know; it’s like, ‘Wow,’” Terri Vanderheiden said. “He should have died a long time ago ... I want to see the body to see that he’s really dead. What they say and what’s real are two different things.”

Her husband, John Vanderheiden, is even more adamant that Herzog may not be dead. Vanderheiden said he would like to drive to Susanville and view the body himself. Failing that, he wants to see photographs.

“I want proof that he’s dead,” John Vanderheiden said as he leaned against a pool table at his Lockeford bar. “I don’t want phone calls telling me that. I’m happy if it’s him. Send me a picture or let me look at him.”

Herzog, who grew up in Linden, was sentenced to 78 years in state prison in 2001 after being convicted by a Santa Clara County jury of the murder of Vanderheiden and the 1984 murders of Paul Cavanaugh, 31, of Stockton, and Howard King III, 35, of Lathrop. Herzog was also convicted of being an accessory to the 1984 murder of Henry Howell, 45, of Santa Clara.

Herzog was paroled in September 2010, but he was required to live in a trailer on prison grounds.

John Vanderheiden also wondered if the location of his daughter’s remains died with Herzog.

“I would have thought he would have left a note saying where Cyndi’s remains are,” he said.

Cyndi’s sister, Kim Vanderheiden Lovejoy, who now lives in Wyoming, said that Herzog had what was coming to him.

“I don’t wish that on anybody, but what goes around comes around,” Lovejoy said. “In my eyes, it’s karma. He deserves what he got.”

Lovejoy, who’s been married to her current husband for four years, said she received a lot of support when she posted the news of Herzog’s death on Facebook and included links to several newscasts.

“[Tuesday] was the first opportunity to say ‘rest in peace’ for my sister,” Lovejoy said.

And the Vanderheidens are not the only ones who are in shock regarding Herzog’s sudden death.

Deputy district attorney Thomas Testa, the prosecutor in Herzog’s case, said when he first heard the news Tuesday morning, he thought someone had murdered Herzog.

Testa said he felt Herzog was too cowardly and too weak to be able to follow through on a suicide plan, but that after letting the news sink in, Testa began to accept Herzog’s death, though he did so with increasing disappointment.

Testa said Tuesday afternoon he would contact Department of Corrections officials to see if they would send him some photographs of Herzog’s body after the autopsy and investigation are completed. Testa estimates the autopsy should be completed in two or three days.

Disappointment, he said, because 50 percent of the knowledge of where all of Herzog’s and Shermantine’s victims are is now gone.

“We just lost half of our knowledge base,” he said. “But at the same time, things have balanced out because justice has taken place. He deserved to die.”

John Vanderheiden thinks there are other people who know where his daughter’s remains are, but that they are not talking.

Public Defender Peter Fox, who defended Herzog in court, said he had no comment regarding the incident Tuesday afternoon.

Assemblymember Cathleen Galgiani, whose cousin Dena McHan disappeared in 1981, was also shocked by the news.

Galgiani, who has written several legislative bills in the aftermath of Herzog’s pending parole, said she could not believe Herzog’s death “had come to this.”

“Families have been emotionally bleeding for the last 14 years because they have never found their loved ones,” she said. “I feel relief for those who testified and feared for their lives, but I grieve for the family members who have been hoping that there would be further investigations that could help bring their loved ones home. We need to give those families peace.”

Galgiani’s legislation, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on Sept. 29, 2011, requires that local law enforcement authorities be notified of a prisoner’s scheduled release date 60 days prior to release and no less than 30 days in the event of unexpected changes.

Galgiani also asked then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to reverse Herzog’s parole in 2010. However, he was paroled in September 2010. Herzog’s parole caused a stir in San Joaquin and Lassen counties, with neither of them wanting him released to their communities.

At approximately 11 p.m. Monday, Herzog’s parole agent was alerted by GPS signal that Herzog’s monitoring ankle bracelet was indicating a low battery, according to a press release by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

The agent notified officials at High Desert State Prison outside Susanville — where Herzog was living in a trailer that was specially designed for him — after the agent unsuccessfully attempted to make phone contact with Herzog, the statement read.

According to the statement, prison staff responded to Herzog’s residence and discovered him unresponsive, and around 11:45 p.m., the Lassen County Sheriff’s Office was called in to investigate, according to a press release by the Lassen County Sheriff’s Office.

A press release from the Lassen County Sheriff’s Office stated deputies who responded to Herzog’s trailer eventually pronounced him dead at approximately 12:30 a.m. Tuesday.

The Lassen County Sheriff’s Office, the Lassen County District Attorney’s Office and the CDCR are all investigating Herzog’s death. The Office of Inspector General was also notified.

According to the Lassen County press release, the evidence at the scene was consistent with asphyxiation by ligature — hanging. However, the press release also stated that an official determination related to the cause of death will not be made until after the investigation and an autopsy are completed.

A panel of three judges from the 6th District Court of Appeal overturned all of Herzog’s convictions in August 2004, saying that Herzog was “coerced” while being interviewed by San Joaquin County Sheriff’s investigators in 1999. The appellate court ordered a retrial in the Vanderheiden case only.

The appellate court ruled that Herzog was “coerced” by sheriff’s investigators while being questioned about the Cavanaugh, King and Howell deaths, but not while being questioned in Vanderheiden’s death.

The appellate court ordered a retrial for Herzog in the murder of Vanderheiden, 25, who disappeared on Nov. 14, 1998.

Herzog accepted a plea bargain on Nov. 24, 2004 and pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in connection with Vanderheiden’s death. He also pleaded guilty to being an accessory to the Cavanaugh, King and Howell murders, and to furnishing methamphetamine to Vanderheiden shortly before she died.

Herzog was sentenced to 14 years in state prison, with credit for six years served.

Herzog’s childhood friend, Wesley Shermantine Jr., 45, was convicted in 2001 of Vanderheiden’s, King’s and Cavanaugh’s murders. He was also convicted of murdering Chevelle “Chevy” Wheeler, 16, of Stockton.

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  • Jay Samone posted at 10:48 am on Sat, Jan 21, 2012.

    Jay Samone Posts: 359

    Brian - you're correct in that he knew exactly where the victims are. Shermantine just wants MONEY. That's it. Nothing more - not notoriety, credit, etc - he just wants MONEY. That's all he's ever said when it comes to giving up locations. Pay his family and he'll talk. That's exactly what Padilla did - he offered him money and I bet he took it. That's why he's talking now.

    The reason why he was living on state property was because no county would take him. Usually parolees are released to the carea of commitment, but San Joaquin County fought to prevent him from being released into the area. All surrounding counties refused to take him, so the only way he would be able to be paroled was to house him on grounds and supervise him there.

  • Brian Dockter posted at 8:19 am on Sat, Jan 21, 2012.

    Brian Dockter Posts: 2740


    Thanks for clarifying things. But it supports my theory even more. The fact that he never gave up any information doesn't mean he didn't know where Cindy's body is.
    And the fact he was" intellecually slow" reveals to me he was torn between giviing up the location of her remains and remaing silent out of fear if he did say something, Shermentine amy have found some way to have him taken out. Curious he was put on parole yet he lived in a trailer in the immediate area of a prison. Also, I find it curious Shermantine is willing to cough up the location of her remains now that Herzog is dead. It seems to me he wants all of the credit.

  • Jay Samone posted at 8:58 am on Fri, Jan 20, 2012.

    Jay Samone Posts: 359

    To Steve and Brian: The article talks alittle about the reason why Herzog was released, so to make it clearer, Herzog was deemed "intellectually slow" and he claimed he "didn't understand" what was going when he was originally questioned and was a puppet of shermantine's stating he helped Shermantine out of fear of what would happen to him. After a couple of appeals, the appelate court stated he was coerced into "admitting" guilt without proper representation and his 70+ year sentence was reduced to a 14 yr manslaughter charge. Because CDCR has a day for day "good time credit" policy, he was released on parole after spending 8 yrs in prison. THAT is how it happened. He never gave up any information on any of their victims or their locations.

  • Brian Dockter posted at 7:10 am on Thu, Jan 19, 2012.

    Brian Dockter Posts: 2740

    Yep Steve. How did this happen? I suspect it may have been some kind of deal Herzog made with the courts and his attorneys. He was supposed to reveal where Cindy's remains were. That's my take.

  • Steve Schmidt posted at 7:56 pm on Wed, Jan 18, 2012.

    Steve Schmidt Posts: 2238

    How the HELLL did this guy get paroled after less than ten years in prison for four murders?

    People do more time than that for possessing marijuana. This truly is a world turned upside down that we live in.

  • roy bitz posted at 8:47 pm on Tue, Jan 17, 2012.

    roy bitz Posts: 489

    I know water boarding has been a segment of our military pilot trainning program and I assume it still is. We can water board our military pilots but not these clowns??? Please!

  • roy bitz posted at 8:40 pm on Tue, Jan 17, 2012.

    roy bitz Posts: 489

    I agree with Joe---this guy and Shermintine should have been forced tell where the body is so at least the family could have closure and CIndy a proper resting place.
    Our legal system may be the best in the world but it needs fixing in cases such as this one.
    Waterbord Shermantine NOW-- while he is still alive.

  • Mike Adams posted at 5:36 pm on Tue, Jan 17, 2012.

    Mike Adams Posts: 1271

    Good!! Hope he likes He l l !!

  • Kevin Paglia posted at 5:33 pm on Tue, Jan 17, 2012.

    Kevin Paglia Posts: 1880

    I've got no problem with the death penalty for proven, real threats like this killer. Too bad Ric sees a scared husband and wife as equal to and deserving the same fate as this convicted killer.

    In my opinion the death penalty is not used enough in cases like this where proof is overwhelming. It is the old Texas joke of putting in an express line for scum who are real and extreme threats to others.

  • Joe Baxter posted at 3:58 pm on Tue, Jan 17, 2012.

    Joe Baxter Posts: 1795

    They should have waterboarded this guy until he gave up the location of of Cyndi. Then they should have called me, I would have gladly kicked the chair from under his feet. Now the last puke who knows the whole story needs to be meet the same fate. A waste of oxygen and taxpayers money.

  • Patrick W Maple posted at 2:07 pm on Tue, Jan 17, 2012.

    Pat Maple Posts: 1804

    Good...the damage he did to this family and friends was enormous...the pain and suffering continues and now will continue forever. His refusal to reveal where he and his accomplice hid the young Cindy Vanderheiden's body deserves the hightest amount of scorn that could be placed on the piece of garbage he was.



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