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Five facing death

By AMY LINDBLOM

With the execution yesterday of Donald Beardslee at San Quentin State Prison, 638 inmates in the state remain on death row — including four men convicted of murders in Calaveras or Tuolumne counties and a fifth man who murdered and may have hidden bodies in the foothills.

The five: Cary Stayner murdered four women in the Yosemite area and Tuolumne County in 1999; Charles Ng killed 11 people in the 1980s in a remote cabin in Wilseyville; Keith Adcox killed a Mi-Wuk Village fisherman in 1983; George Smithey raped, robbed and killed a Glencoe woman in 1988; and Wesley Shermantine murdered four people in the 1980s and '90s.

All five men are housed at San Quentin State Prison in San Rafael while their convictions are being appealed, which is automatic in death sentences, said Margo Bock, spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections in Sacramento.

Death-sentence appeals on average take about 14 years to complete in California. By comparison, they take about 10 years in Texas, said Tuolumne County Public Defender Robert Price.

"There are not that many appeals lawyers in California," Price said.

Of the 638 condemned killers in the state, 15 are women.

The men and their crimes

• Stayner killed Carol Sund, her 15-year-old daughter, Julie Sund, and a friend from Argentina, Silvina Pelosso, 16. Julie Sund's body was found near the shores of Don Pedro Reservoir by Tuolumne County Sheriff's deputies who had been searching for her after the burned bodies of Carol Sund and Pelosso were found in the trunk of a rental car near Long Barn.

The search for the trio gripped Tuolumne County residents for months as hundreds of sheriff's officers from Tuolumne, Mariposa and Stanislaus counties helped FBI agents search for the missing women, who were last seen alive near Yosemite National Park.

Stayner, now 43, was tried and convicted in Santa Clara County and sentenced to death. He was also convicted of killing Joie Armstrong, a Yosemite naturalist. He received a life sentence for Armstrong's murder.

• Serial killer Ng, now 43, spent 14 years maneuvering his way through the criminal justice system in the United States and Canada, where he fled after the grizzly discovery of multiple bodies in the early 1980s.

In 1999, Ng was found guilty of torturing and killing 11 men, women and children in an underground cell at the Wilseyville cabin. Leonard Lake, Ng's accomplice, committed suicide before Ng was arrested. Ng was prosecuted by former Calaveras County District Attorney Peter Smith during a trial moved to Orange County after a change in venue was ordered.

• Adcox was convicted in 1983 of shooting and killing Mi-Wuk Village fisherman David Orozco earlier that year. Adcox, then 20, and his friend, Howard Love, 18, were camping when they decided to rob Orozco.

They followed him to a secluded spot on the North Fork of the Tuolumne River and shot him in the back of the head, then stole $30 and Orozco's car. Love was convicted of being an accomplice and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

Adcox was prosecuted by then-Tuolumne County District Attorney Eric DuTemple, now the presiding judge in Tuolumne County Superior Court.

• Smithey, 64, a Tennessee parolee who drifted to California, was convicted in 1989 of killing Cheryl Nesler at her trailer in Glencoe. During the trial, psychiatrists for the defense testified that Smithey, with an IQ of 70, was retarded and suffered from amphetamine-related psychosis when he killed Nesler.

In 1999, the California Supreme Court upheld Smithey's conviction and he is awaiting an execution date.

• Shermantine, 38, was sentenced to death in 2001 for the San Joaquin County shooting and killings of Paul Cavanaugh, 31, and Howard King in 1984. Their bodies were found in a car and tire marks leaving the scene belonged to Shermantine's pickup truck.

Shermantine, of the Stockton area, was also convicted of killing Chevy Wheeler, 16, in 1985 and Cyndi Vanderheiden, 25, in 1998.

The bodies of Wheeler and Vanderheiden have never been found, but, during the investigation into their deaths, Shermantine made several statements to police that if he ever wanted to hide a body he could have done it in an abandoned mine shaft — hundreds of which dot the foothills around Calaveras County.

Shermantine attended Calaveras High School in San Andreas and his parents owned a cabin in the Valley Springs area.

Shermantine has denied committing the murders and claimed a friend, Loren Herzog, is the real culprit.

In 2001 Shermantine told authorities he would tell where the bodies were hidden on condition of a lesser sentence. Also in 2001, Herzog was convicted of three of the murders and being an accomplice in another. He was sentenced to life in prison.

Contact Amy Lindblom at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it


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