By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Corpse Unearthed In Riverbank Backyard
A woman's body unearthed in the backyard of a Riverbank home last week is believed to be that of a Nevada resident who went missing in late July but who used to live in Riverbank.

Stanislaus County Coroner's officials are almost certain the woman is Peggy Herlacher, 73, of Silver Springs, Nevada who was declared a missing person on July 24 but are awaiting dental records and DNA results before identifying the body for certain.

Detectives of Lyon County in Nevada have said Herlacher's grandson James Masterson, 22, who moved from Riverbank to live with her in mid July is suspected of robbing and murdering her in Nevada and hiding the body in Riverbank.

Currently in custody in Sacramento County on unrelated charges, Masterson was pulled over by a CHP officer in July to face charges of possession of heroin and stolen property. Investigators say Masterson was driving Herlacher's car and jewelry and a credit card found in it was stolen from her Nevada home.

Tuesday of last week, Stanislaus County Coroner's Office officials with Lyon County detectives and other police discovered human remains in a shallow grave in the backyard of 2549 Dobbins Lane.

Using cadaver dogs, they located the remains beneath a flowerbed wrapped in articles of bedding and under a sheet of plastic, bark chips and a large terracotta pot.

Detectives had searched the house and yard before without success but an alert deputy noticed loose dirt on top of sprinkler head next to the flower garden.

Holding a press conference in Nevada on Sept. 2, Sheriff Alan Veil said the body's recovery follows five weeks of intensive investigation into Herlacher's disappearance.

Sheriff's Capt. Pat Soukup said the autopsy indicated she was strangled to death and authorities believe the incident took place in her Nevada mobile home.

Masterson's grandfather and aunt occupy the Riverbank house and were interviewed by police last week but were reported to be on vacation on the day Herlacher disappeared in Nevada.

Michelle Smith, Masterson's cousin and a neighbor of the Dobbins Lane home, said she came across Masterson that day at the house and later discovered he had broken into it.

He was driving his grandmother's white Chevrolet Cavalier and said she had let him borrow the vehicle but he didn't know where she was.

Family members said Herlacher and her husband moved to Nevada in 1999, her husband died a few years later and she lived alone. Masterson was living at the Dobbins Lane home but was thrown out after reportedly stealing and selling items from the house and went to live with Herlacher in mid July.