STOCKTON, CA - San Joaquin County Sheriff Steve Moore said Friday he's not sure a mistake was made when remains pulled from a well near Linden were processed for identification.
Moore came under fire this week when a Chico State Forensic Anthropologist claimed the remains of a child were mixed with the remains of Joann Hobson, one of the victims positively identified from the Linden area well.
READ MORE: DNA analysis of Jo Anne Hobson's remains found at Linden well
Hobson was one of four people whose remains were located. The burial site was located after convicted killer Wes Shermantine disclosed the location to bounty hunter Leonard Padilla. Shermantine and partner Loren Herzog went on a 15-year killing spree during the 80s and 90s.
"It looks terrible at this point; I won't disagree with you," Moore said about the additional bones being mixed with Hobson's. "Before I say something I don't know, I won't do that. I'm trying to get additional information to make an appropriate finding. If that finding shows an error was made, I'll tell you. I have no problem with that."
Moore said he's having the forensic anthropologists that identified Hobson look once again at their early findings and compare the results to the new Chico State information.
Moore said the FBI is now in charge of any future digging that happens east of Stockton, where there could be even more victims of Shermantine and Herzog.
Shermantine is on death row and Herzog killed himself shortly before being released from prison.
Read San Joaquin County Sheriff Steve Moore's statement below:
I want to begin by expressing my deepest sympathy to the families of the victims in this case as they have suffered for decades for crimes committed against their loved ones.
The San Joaquin County Sheriff's Office like most other law enforcement agencies in California relies on outside experts to assist them with major cases. These experts include the California Department of Justice, Forensic Anthropologists, Forensic Odontologists and the FBI.
In this unprecedented excavation of the well in Linden, we did ask for the assistance of the California DOJ Bureau of Forensic services in excavating the well and recovering any remains and evidence. During this process all appropriate standards were met as outlined by Cal DOJ and Cal OSHA requirements.
Once the remains were recovered they were taken to the Forensic Anthropologist Dr. Miller-Antonio at Stanislaus State University for examination and determination of the number and types of victims based on the skeletal remains. Dr. Miller-Antonio reconstructed the skeletal remains of three young females and one fetus.
Cal DOJ Bureau of Forensic services provided direction as to which bones should be submitted for DNA analysis. These remains were taken to their lab for development of DNA profiles and matching, resulting in three DNA profiles of which two were identified as Ms. Joann Hobson and Ms. Billie. The third female was not identified as there was no matching profile in the State and National Familial databases, the profile was preserved for future identification. A sample of fetal bones was also subjected to testing for a DNA profile but a profile could not be developed.
Once the identifications had been made the individual reconstructed skeletal remains that had been laid out by Dr. Miller-Antonio were then packaged and taken to the San Joaquin County Morgue where they were processed separately for release to the families.
Last Wednesday afternoon I was advised that a report by Dr. Bartelink of California State University Chico had been released that indicated his belief that there were possible commingled bones among those identified as Ms. Joann Hobson and released to P.L. Fry Mortuary as directed by Ms. Shelley.
I received the full report yesterday and subsequently requested that Cal DOJ and Dr. Miller-Antonio review the report and provide a comparison to their original reports to this office which is still forth coming. We are also awaiting the results of the DNA analysis listed in Dr. Bartlinks report.
In March the FBI was requested by the Sheriff's Office to conduct any and all future excavations involving this case. The FBI via Sacramento Supervising Special Agent Herb Brown accepted this request with the Sheriff's Office providing logistical support as requested.
The Sheriff's office in conjunction with the FBI have met with multiple other law enforcement agencies who were investigating cases they believed associated with the Shermantine and Herzog murders. During these meetings information regarding their cases was shared with them and we shall continue to work with these and any other agencies to assist them in the future.
It is and will remain the goal of this Office to recover and identify any and all victims related to this case and provide closure to their families.
We also would gladly accept the assistance of the California Department of Justice along with that of the FBI in proceeding with this investigation into the future.
By Tim Daly, firstname.lastname@example.org