Grandmother Strangled, Grandson Expected To Be Charged

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Peggy Herlacher's family had long since braced themselves for the worst.

The 72 year old woman disappeared from her Silver Springs home sometime around July 22. Her grandson, 22 year old James Masterson, was arrested days later in Sacramento driving her car, using her credit cards.

Still the news that a body believed to be Herlacher ahd been recovered, an autopsy determined she had been strangled, probably in her Silver Springs home, and authorities are preparing to charge Masterson with her murder, brought new pain.

"I mean, come on. A grandson doing that to his own grandmother," said a tearful Lethea Love.

Love, Herlacher's daughter says her nephew had been kicked out of other family homes in California and came to stay with his grandmother in July because no one else would take him in.

Love says a family member told her Masterson showed up unexpectedly at their home in California driving Herlacher's car. They would not let him in the home and he slept in the car in their driveway that night.

When they learned Herlacher was missing, Love says an aunt went looking for him. She found him at his maternal grandfather's home in Riverbank, California, with the car. "She said he had sweat dripping off him and he was really nervous."

Tuesday investigators returned to the home. There, buried in a flower bed, they found a body. Thursday at a press conference on the Lyon County Courthouse steps in Yerington, Sheriff Allen Veil said all indications are that the body is Herlacher's and an autopsy determined she had been strangled.

District Attorney Bob Auer says he expects to charge Masterson with killing his grandmother, stealing her car and driving her body to California. He's being held in Sacramento on charges of heroin possession and reportedly is not talking with investigators.

Sheriff Veil says even for experienced law enforcement officials the details of the crime defy explanation.

"It's a shocker. A grandson and a grandmother. I think most of us would not even consider that a possibility."

The D-A says once he's filed the murder charges, he will move to extradite Masterson to Nevada. At some point he will assemble a team to examine the possibility of seeking the death penalty.

It's something Lethea Love and other family members have already pondered.

"He had no right to do what he did to my mom. He took her life for no reason. For drugs or money. We want him to die."