Map by serial killer steers authorities to California burial

SAN FRANCISCO Mon Feb 13, 2012 8:15am EST

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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A map drawn by a convicted serial killer has led authorities in California to three separate burial sites, where the discovery of human remains could bring an end to multiple unsolved missing-persons cases, authorities said on Sunday.

Investigators estimate they have recovered more than 300 human bones of varying sizes -- as well as coats, shoes, a purse and jewelry-over the weekend --from an abandoned well on land near a rural northern California, said Deputy Les Garcia, spokesman for the San Joaquin County Sheriff.

The site in Linden, about 100 miles east of San Francisco, was identified on a map drawn by convicted killer Wesley Shermantine who was part of a duo whose methamphetamine-fuelled violence earned them the moniker "Speed Freak Killers".

Shermantine was given a death sentence in 2001 for the murders of four people dating back to 1984. Prosecutors believed he and childhood friend Loren Herzog, who committed suicide last month, were linked to as many as two dozen killings.

In addition to the site in Linden, authorities were combing two other sites near San Andreas, 60 miles south of Sacramento, where they found human remains on Thursday and Friday near land owned by Shermantine's family, Garcia said.

It was not immediately clear how many people were buried at the three sites, but Garcia said dental records were used to identify Cyndi Vanderheiden, who disappeared in 1998 at age 25. DNA testing of all the remains was pending through the California Department of Justice crime lab, he said.

"These bones and clothing items have been buried underground in this sealed, abandoned well for several years," Garcia said. "We'll have to see what the human remains tell us."

A Sacramento-based bounty hunter said the maps that led to the remains were drawn after he struck a deal with Shermantine to pay him $33,000 for information leading to the location of the bodies, although authorities would not confirm that.

"Six months ago started giving up information to me, and we requested maps that in early February were confiscated by the prison and sent to the sheriff," the bounty hunter, Leonard Padilla, told Reuters.

(Editing By Cynthia Johnston)

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