I am sure anyone that was around in the late 60’s would be able to remember Charlie Manson and his gang. I was only 14 but I can remember how horrible I felt for poor pregnant Sharon Tate. I stayed glued to the TV with the reports of what had happened.

Charlie Manson and his gang hid out at Barker Ranch in 1969 after the massacre of pregnant Tate and six others in the Los Angeles area. The Manson Gang hung out at the ranch and use to roam the Death Valley area in dune buggies. Manson was getting ready for a race war that he was trying to start that he proudly called “Helter Skelter”. Manson himself was arrested after being spotted hiding under a sink at the ranch. Manson is now serving a life sentence at Corcoran State Prison.

For years, rumors have swirled about the possibility of more victims’ graves at Manson’s last hideout at Barker Ranch. Hitchhikers that have visited and have never been seen again, runaways who drifted into the Manson camp and apparently have just disappeared and maybe others could very well be found.  

Authorities have recently started digging the grounds at the Ranch for remains of victims with teams of forensic specialists conducting a thorough examination of the site to answer any lingering questions once and for all. On their first day they recovered a .38 caliber bullet casing just a few inches beneath the surface of a 3×6 foot plot. They marked it with one of their yellow flags with the word “evidence” and then photographed it labeling it as evidence #1.

“It may be good evidence or it may not,” said Arpad Vass, a scientist from a research facility at the University of Tennessee who specializes in the study of the decay of human remains. “But everything we find here must be considered evidence”

It appears that just about everything on the property made of metal, wood or tin is riddled of bullet holes , old and new, but they continued digging even in the unbearable heat. Vass surveyed the work from beneath a portable shelter that was repeatedly uprooted by the wind. “I think there is something decomposed there,” Vass said. “But I don’t know if an animal died here, or a Native American or a dinosaur way back when. If it’s a Native American, I’ll know right away,” Vass said. “My biggest fear is that we’ll find bone fragments, which will take quite a while to analyze.”

This investigation was triggered when Mammoth Lakes Police Department Sgt. Paul Dostie reported that his cadaver dog Buster picked up the scent of a body in February. The 20-member team arrived at the Ranch in a caravan around 8:30 am and started right away with the intention of gathering every piece of evidence they can find. They started with a grave sized plot in one of the five areas where Buster apparently picked up the scents.

Dostie, a 20-year veteran of the force who has enlisted scientists and their cutting-edge tools and skills to his cases, clung to hope that the team was on the verge of a breakthrough. Sitting on the stone steps of the Barker Ranch house with the big black Labrador at his side, Dostie said, “We’re going to be working here until nightfall.”

The search at the ranch, 90 miles southeast of Independence, the Inyo County seat, was expected to continue through Thursday.

Jan Barrett

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