By Kim Minugh and Peter Hecht
San Joaquin Sheriff's officials this afternoon said they have made preliminary identification of the remains of one of the bodies found at a Calaveras County site linked to convicted murderer Wesley Shermantine.
The mother of Chevelle "Chevy" Wheeler, a 1985 murder victim of Shermantine, said she was notified today that remains found Friday were those of her daughter.
"It's really bittersweet," said Paula Wheeler, who said she received confirmation at 12:45 p.m. today that her daughter's dental records match a skull recovered at the site.
Les Garcia, spokesman for the San Joaquin Sheriff's Department, said part of a recovered jaw was examined by a forensic dentist, who made the preliminary identification that the remains were those of the teen.
The remains will be forwarded to the California Department of Justice for further identification, Garcia said. Last week other remains from Calaveras County were tentatively identified as Cyndi Vanderheiden, another of Shermantine's victims.
Shermantine, who is imprisoned at San Quentin's Death Row, had informed law enforcement where to look for remains at two sites in Calaveras County and one near Linden, in San Joaquin County.
Authorities had hoped to resume excavation today at the Linden site, but determined that the soil was too moist after recent rains. Instead, investigators sifted through soil already excavated, Garcia said, adding that excavation at the site should resume Wednesday.
More than 1,000 bones or bone fragments have been recovered from a well on the Linden property, Garcia said.
Meanwhile, other investigators are going through the more than 50 tips left on a hotline, narrowing the leads for potential match-up to likely victims, Garcia said.
People who think their loved ones may have fallen victim to Shermantine or his partner, Loren Herzog, to call (209) 468-5087 or email firstname.lastname@example.org with name and phone number, the missing person's name and case number.