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Cadaver dogs to rejoin search for human remains

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Posted: Thursday, February 16, 2012 11:12 am | Updated: 9:11 am, Tue Jan 28, 2014.

Cadaver dogs, possibly the same ones used to uncover human remains at convicted killer Wesley Shermantine Jr.’s former property in Calaveras County, will be brought out to Linden today. They will help investigators continue the search for the remains of people who may have fallen victim to Shermantine and his former partner-in-crime Loren Herzog.

The cadaver dogs will be used at a well that has been excavated for a week on an East Flood Road property, and possibly at a second well that is located just east of the current dig site, according to San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Les Garcia.

Two K-9 investigative units have been confirmed to meet with San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department officers before heading out to Linden. Two more K-9 units could be brought on depending on the need of the investigators, said Sgt. Jose Cardoza of the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office.

The cadaver dogs will investigate the well located on the 27000 block of East Flood Road that has been excavated for the past week by San Joaquin County Sheriff’s deputies and from the California Department of Justice.

The cadaver dogs will help investigators ensure that no more human remains lie at the bottom of the well, Garcia said.

According to Garcia, in addition to checking the current dig site, the cadaver dogs may also start looking at a second well that is located down the road from the investigation.

That well, he said, will be investigated by the dogs before any digging occurs.

Garcia said that investigators are still cleaning in and around the well they have been excavating this week, and nothing further will be done until the Department of Environmental Health examines the dirt and debris brought up from the well before it is once again sealed.

Debris, including car and washing machine parts, has been brought up from the well in addition to the 1,000-plus bones and bone fragments.

Garcia said even though some may consider those items garbage, they are still part of the investigation.

“We have to look at everything ... anything can be evidence,” he said. “Once we say something is not, we cannot get it back to look at it.”

Cadaver dogs are not alone in inspecting the well.

Thursday morning, a camera from the Sheriff’s Department was sent down into the well to look around to see what digging crews may have missed.

However, Garcia said the Department of Justice will be providing an additional camera to get another look.

An expert is required to view the footage, though whether it can be streamed to a computer off-site or if the individual has to be present on-scene is unknown, Garcia said.

Garcia was unsure of the brand or model of the camera used Thursday, and he was not yet sure what type of camera would be used by the Department of Justice.

The search for human remains officially hit the one-week mark today, though Garcia said the dig could last weeks.

The search, prompted by maps and letters sent by Shermantine from death row at San Quentin State Prison, has thus far led to the recovery of two partial human skulls that included teeth and other possible human bone fragments at his former property in San Andreas, as well as the bones and bone fragments in Linden.

The skulls found in San Andreas have been preliminarily identified as 25-year-old Clements resident Cyndi Vanderheiden, who disappeared in 1998, and 16-year-old Stockton resident Chevelle “Chevy” Wheeler, who went missing in 1985.

Contact reporter Katie Nelson at katien@lodinews.com.

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