San Joaquin County Sheriff Steve Moore said on Monday there are no immediate plans to conduct further searches for the remains of Cyndi Vanderheiden and other victims of the same killers.
The idea of bringing convicted murderer Wesley Shermantine Jr. to San Joaquin and Calaveras counties to show authorities where the remains are is a possibility, but only if Moore believes the public will be safe with Shermantine outside of San Quentin State Prison for a day, Moore said.
"I still have grave concerns that should Mr. Shermantine be brought out of death row, there exists a great potential of an escape attempt or potential 'suicide by cop' in an attempt by Mr. Shermantine to defeat justice, as he has nothing to lose," Moore said at a press conference attended by five Sacramento TV stations and several members of the print media.
"Suicide by cop" is when someone acts in a threatening way that would prompt law enforcement authorities to kill them.
Shermantine was convicted in 2001 of murdering Vanderheiden, a 25-year-old Clements resident, who disappeared in November 1998 and hasn't been seen since.
During the Monday afternoon press conference at the Sheriff's headquarters in French Camp, Moore outlined the sequence of events during the past two weeks. He learned that bounty hunter Leonard Padilla and former FBI agent Jeff Rinek had planned to arrange for Shermantine to show where Vanderheiden's and other victims' remains are located.
Moore maintains that the arrangements to transport Shermantine for one day into San Joaquin County came without the knowledge of Moore or any other local law enforcement official.
"As sheriff/coroner, it is one of my responsibilities to recover any decedent whenever possible, but that responsibility does not relieve me of my duty to provide for the safety and security of all county residents," Moore said. "I believe it only reasonable and prudent to explore any and all available information regarding potential burial sites before making a final decision on the transportation of Mr. Shermantine."
Moore met on Jan. 20 with representatives from California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the San Joaquin County District Attorney's Office, the FBI and Calaveras County Sheriff's Office to discuss logistics.
Moore said Deputy District Attorney Thomas Testa, who prosecuted the Shermantine case, told him that Padilla and Rinek had talked to Shermantine about revealing potential burial sites.
Moore said he had asked Testa to invite Rinek to the Jan. 20 meeting to reveal what he knows. In a phone interview after Monday's press conference, Rinek denied that he was invited to the meeting.
Rinek and Padilla were invited to meet with Sheriff's homicide detectives to share information this week about where the murder victims' remains are located.
"I have shared everything I know with the Stockton Record editor," Rinek said, referring to a letter he sent the Record on Jan. 21.
Rinek added that there is no reason for to meet with Sheriff's detectives because he has nothing more to tell them.
Meanwhile, Padilla said he is willing to meet with detectives.
"I'm just waiting for them to give me a call," Padilla said after the press conference. "I have no problem with it."
Moore quoted Testa as saying that Shermantine was "a changed man" who was willing to reveal where the remains are located.
Testa said that Shermantine seemed to want to get what happened off his chest.
"He sounded quite genuine," Testa said of Shermantine later Monday afternoon.
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at firstname.lastname@example.org.