Convicted killer Loren Herzog is now technically a free man. Even so, he will be living on the grounds of a state prison in Susanville and will face severe restrictions on where he can go and when.
Herzog, 44, was released to a trailer specially built for him on the grounds of High Desert State Prison. Prior to the move, he was being held in the administrative segregation unit of the California Correctional Center in Lassen County since Thursday, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Lassen County Sheriff Steve Warren was meeting with officials from the state parole board branch in Red Bluff on Friday to hammer out the details of Herzog's parole.
Herzog will likely be required to wear a GPS locator bracelet, remain within the county and abide by a strict curfew, according to Gordon Hinkle, press secretary for the corrections department. Herzog will also be required to check in with a parole officer several times a month for at least the next 3 years, Hinkle said.
Located in a region dominated by wind-swept sagebrush and rolling foothills, the High Desert Prison is 12 miles east of Susanville.
In addition to being housed on state property, Herzog will likely be employed by the prison for minimum wage.
The decision on where to house Herzog has been charged with controversy, and the location has been changed several times in the past 3 months. Corrections officials had initially planned to parole him to his last county of residence, San Joaquin County. But family members of his victims successfully petitioned the state to have his parole transferred to another area. Plans to move him to Tehama County were met with protests, as were plans to house him in the small community of Doyle on the Nevada border.
Residents of Lassen County have held demonstrations every day since news broke of his parole to the county on Tuesday. Officials in Susanville, the county's seat of government, have collected 5,729 signatures on a petition protesting the parole to be sent to the governor's office, according to Jim Chapman, Lassen County Superintendent. He accused state officials of choosing his county for Herzog's parole because it is under-represented in Sacramento.
"This is a political hot potato that no one wants to deal with," Chapman said.
Hinkle acknowledged that no community in California is likely to welcome Herzog with open arms, but consideration for the families of his victims and public safety were key factors in the decision. He said that although the corrections department is fielding criticism for the move, it is required by law to release inmates who have served their time.
"We did not set the sentence for Mr. Herzog, the courts did," he said.
A San Joaquin County jury had convicted Herzog for his role in three area murders, including the brutal slaying of Clements resident Cyndi Vanderheiden. He was sentenced to 78 years in prison while his accomplice, Wesley Shermantine, now sits on California's death row.
Six years ago an appellate court ruled that investigators had coerced Herzog's confession, making the bulk of the evidence against him inadmissible in retrial. Prosecutors accepted a plea bargain that reduced Herzog's sentence to 14 years with time off for good behavior.