LINDEN -- After spending nearly two months digging down a well singled out by convicted "Speed Freak Killer" Wesley Shermantine as housing remains of his victims, FBI investigators announced Thursday they have concluded their fruitless search and said any future digs are doubtful.
At a news conference at the FBI's Sacramento headquarters, Special Agent Herb Brown said the six-week operation recovered only dirt and debris from a well that once plunged nearly 100 feet below rural pasture land on East Flood Road in Linden. No remains were found.
Any future searches are also unlikely for remains of people believed to be killed by Shermantine and his partner Loren Herzog, who committed suicide in January 2012, Brown said.
"Despite what Shermantine would like the media and the public to believe, we continued to offer him every opportunity to assist with successful recovery of victim remains with the caveat that he must provide specific information regarding locations and identities," Brown said. "Since providing information that aided recovery of five victims in February 2012, his claims have lacked necessary specificity. He now refuses to meet with us, stymieing future investigation and excavation."
The dig in Linden was just a few hundred yards from where investigators from the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Office unearthed four sets of remains a year ago -- those of JoAnne Hobson, 16, and Kimberly Billy, 19, both of Stockton; an unidentified
Investigators also found the remains of Clements resident Cyndi Vanderheiden, 25, and Stockton resident Chevelle "Chevy" Wheeler, 16, in Calaveras County in early February 2012.
A second dig spearheaded by the FBI was conducted in September, also in Linden, but that dig also did not yield any human remains.
Shermantine and Herzog were convicted of multiple murders after their 1999 arrests. The men were dubbed the "Speed Freak Killers" because of their addiction to methamphetamine.
In August, Shermantine was briefly removed from his death row cell and led investigators to several sites in San Joaquin County where he said victims were buried. He has since told several media outlets that investigators were digging up the wrong well.
"We are disappointed that our efforts did not yield remains, offering closure to families who suspect that Wesley Shermantine and Loren Herzog were involved in the disappearance of their loved ones," Brown said.
He said that the search of the well, conducted by digging by hand, was "thorough."
The San Joaquin Sheriff's Office asked the FBI to take over the search earlier this year, after an independent review arranged by Hobson's family determined that the girl's remains had been co-mingled with that of another female victim. Hobson's family sued the department earlier this month for negligence and emotional distress stemming from the co-mingling of the remains.
Authorities tested a bone fragment belonging to the second victim to see if it might belong to Michaela Garecht, who was 9 when she was abducted from Hayward in 1988. The fragment was determined not to belong to the girl.
Michaela's mom, Sharon Murch, said the FBI must conduct searches based on solid information rather than continuing to dig based on assumptions or questionable information from Shermantine.
"We families are just way too fragile for that," she said.
Staff writer Kristin J. Bender and The Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact Katie Nelson at 925-945-4780 or follow her at Twitter.com/katienelson210.