Killer Coming to Susanville


AP Photo/California Department of Corrections

Loren Herzog

Our listeners in Susanville have been following this story closely

The state of California is about to release a convicted killer into Lassen County, a couple hours drive from Reno.

The catch is he never lived there and his crimes took place nowhere near there.

After a series of killings in San Juaquin county to the east of the Bay Area, Loren Herzog was convicted of three murders and given 78 years to life in prison.

That was in 2001, but now just 9 years later, he's getting out.

California's Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has people begging to keep him in prison, but spokesman Luis Patino says their hands are tied by the courts.

Patino: "Mister Herzog's sentence was reduced greatly by the courts because of what the courts felt were errors in the way mister Herzog was interrogated."

Herzog and his accomplice Wesley Shermantine are believed to have killed dozens of people over more than a decade.

The pair was known as the "Speed Freak Killers" for their use of methamphetamine in their crimes.

They were actually convicted of only a handful of murders. Shermantine got the death penalty. Herzog got lots of prison time.

But in 2004, an appeals court ruled that Herzog's videotaped confession was coerced.

He got a retrial and pleaded guilty to one count of voluntary manslaughter- instead of three murders.

His 78 years to life got dialed down to 14 years.

With time off for good behavior, Herzog now has to be released.

Under California law, he would ordinarily be returned to San Juaquin County, where he last lived.

But Patino says there are still three people connected to the case living there. Authorities have to keep Herzog at least 35 miles away.

Patino: "So we began looking for another county and we found that Lassen county being a rural area, being far away from these 3 individuals was a suitable location for release."
Rittiman: "I would have to think there were several suitable locations though, is there any particular reason one county gets picked over another in that circumstance?"
Patino: "I don't have any information on that."

That answer isn't good enough for many in Lassen County, where people are protesting being forced to take in Herzog.

Logue: "The first question I asked them is why aren't you sending these people to Carmel?' "

That reference to the pricey-coastal town comes from Dan Logue. He represents the more rural Lassen County in the California State Assembly.

Logue: "They don't send them to wealthy, ruling class communities, right. That's the million dollar question and I asked that question of CDCR and they couldn't answer it."

Logue says this is more than just another "NIMBY" case. Not only does Lassen county not want Herzog in its backyard, it can't afford to hire more deputies in response to his arrival.

Logue: "We're gonna make more victims. The Sheriff of Lassen County believes that this guy is a serial killer and he's not going to stop now."

Parole officials are still working on the plan for Herzog's release, which should happen any day now.

They can say Herzog will be confined to the county, put on a mandatory curfew, and monitored 24/7 by use of a GPS ankle unit.

But that system isn't perfect. The California Inspector General reported concerns about the use of GPS systems for parole supervision, saying it gave the public a false sense of security.

Patino says Herzog will get the highest level of GPS monitoring, but admits that parole supervision can only do so much.

Patino: "There are always some limits to what anyone can do and we work as hard as we can to do what we can to keep the public safe within those limits of the law and of reality."

The reality as it stands is that one half of the speed freak killers will be living is Susanville probably by the end of this weekend,,, because he has to live somewhere.

The plan for now is to keep him on state grounds outside the perimeter of the High Desert State Prison.