Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani’s senatorial campaign is running a 30-second television ad that credits her for breakthroughs in the “Speed Freak Killers” mass murder case. The ad is a testimonial by John Vanderheiden, father of homicide victim Cyndi Vanderheiden, who was 25 when she was killed in 1998.
Galgiani, D-Stockton, is running against Assemblyman Bill Berryhill, R-Ceres, for the 5th District Senate seat in San Joaquin, Stanislaus and a sliver of Sacramento counties. The following is a text of the TV ad and an analysis by The Bee’s Jim Sanders:
Vanderheiden: When my daughter Cyndi went missing, it was torture. Cathleen Galgiani helped us find her and bury her. Cathleen stopped one of the killers from getting loose. She got the reward money to find the victims. Then she got the killer’s map to where the victims were. Please vote for Cathleen. She means the world to us.
Although voters should not infer that Galgiani alone reopened the case, obtained maps or stopped a parole release, the ad is correct that Galgiani was a driving force in matters involving the Speed Freak Killers. Galgiani has an intensely personal interest: For years, she has had a nagging suspicion, never proved, that the duo killed her cousin Dena McHan in 1981.
Vanderheiden is referring to events surrounding Loren Herzog and Wesley Shermantine, who terrorized San Joaquin and Calaveras counties years ago. Shermantine was convicted of four killings, Herzog three, but the latter’s convictions were overturned on appeal.
Herzog ultimately pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and was paroled last year to a trailer at a Susanville prison, where he hanged himself in January.
Stockton Record reporter Scott Smith, local bounty hunter Leonard Padilla and retired FBI agent Jeff Rinek played key roles in obtaining cooperation and maps from Shermantine that broke the case open anew, launching a search for more bodies last winter that turned up the remains of Vanderheiden, four other adults and one fetus.
Galgiani’s efforts helped pave the way for their success, however. She received letters from Shermantine and obtained copies of his maps. She arranged a pivotal interview between Rinek and Shermantine. She helped find Vanderheiden’s body by relaying information from Shermantine’s sister about the site of a torn-down fence that was vital to following a burial map.
Galgiani was not the only person to fight the notion of paroling Herzog into a community, but she helped lead that effort. She also pushed successfully for the state to offer reward money for tips leading to additional convictions in the case. And she carried legislation authorizing Shermantine to be taken from prison to identify burial sites.