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 Sunday.
Investigators recovered more than 300 human bones of varying sizes — as well as coats, shoes, a purse and jewelry — over the weekend from a well on land in rural northern California, said Deputy Les Garcia, spokesman for the San Joaquin County Sheriff.
The search was expected to resume Monday if weather allowed.
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 has said there may be 10 or more victims in the area.
The remains and other items were found 45 feet deep in the well on an abandoned cattle ranch, Garcia added.
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.
DNA testing of all the remains was pending through the California Department of Justice crime lab, according to Garcia.
"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 piece of a human skull and bones found Saturday at the ranch will be sent to the Department of Justice in the hopes of identifying them through DNA testing, Garcia said. Dental records identified remains found Thursday in Calaveras County as those of 25-year-old Cyndi Vanderheiden, who disappeared in 1988.
Another set of remains were found Friday in the same area, and the parents of a missing 16-year-old girl have said authorities told them that Shermantine said their daughter was buried in that spot decades ago.
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.
Herzog was paroled in 2010 to a trailer outside the High Desert State Prison in Susanville. He committed suicide outside that trailer last month after Padilla told him Shermantine was disclosing the location of the well along with two other locations.