San Joaquin County authorities accused of impeding investigation into Michaela Garecht case

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTVU) -- When State Senator Cathleen Galgiani filed a federal court motion to unseal missing persons records and accused the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Office of deleting files related to the so-called "Speed Freak Killers," she wasn't the only person questioning the Sheriff's handling of the case.

Declarations by investigators from two other agencies also describe meeting resistance from San Joaquin County.

"The whole thing was probably the weirdest or most bizarre thing I've ever experienced and that was in 33 years of being in police work," said retired Hayward Police Inspector Kevin Atkins.

Atkins was investigating the disappearance of Michaela Garecht in 2012, when search crews discovered human remains in San Joaquin County near the city of Linden. Convicted killer Wesley Shermantine pointed investigators to the area, where he said they would find the bodies of people murdered by his childhood friend, Loren Herzog.

Shermantine and Herzog were suspected of killing more than 20 people in the 1980's and 90's. Garecht was kidnapped in 1988.

Based on a sketch of Garecht's kidnapper which resembled Herzog, Hayward Police were among those interested in the discoveries made in San Joaquin County.

"So, you're going to want to establish some sort of tie -- the quickest way to do that is reach out to the law enforcement agency and say, can you help me out with that?" asked Atkins.

In addition to about 1,000 bone fragments found near Linden, searchers are recovered other personal items including shoes.

"I tried to get a look at those shoes because we knew what Michaela was wearing, so we wanted to find out, are there any shoes that could possibly be tied to her?" said Atkins. "I said [to the Sheriff's Office] can I simply take a look? Can I simply see either the photos or the shoes and I wasn't allowed to."

The declaration of Reno Police detective who was investigating another missing persons case echoed similar frustrations with San Joaquin County.

"We used to have many conversations," said Atkins. "We'd sit there and say, there's a dirty little secret somewhere. There's something going on."

In a statement Monday, San Joaquin County Sheriff Steve Moore rejected the notion that his office refused to help other police agencies. "San Joaquin County personnel have always been willing to work with any law enforcement agency, concerning their investigations," wrote Moore.

Sheriff Moore also denied deleting any missing persons files related to the Speed Freak Killers cases.