Sunday, May 11, 2008

Police to hunt for bodies at Manson family hideout

Nearly 40 years after Charles Manson and his followers shocked the world with a string of horrific slayings, police in California say they will excavate a former hideout of the convicted murderer in a hunt for more of his possible victims.

Inyo County Sheriff Bill Lutze said in a statement "limited excavation" was planned at the remote Barker Ranch in Death Valley national park, roughly 321 kilometres north-east of Los Angeles.

It follows initial surveys earlier this year that suggested the presence of human remains at the site, where Manson and several of his "family" were arrested in 1969 before being convicted on multiple counts of murder.

However Mr Lutze stressed that the earlier findings at Barker Ranch, which involved cadaver dogs and soil testing, had been inconclusive.

"There was no consistent response from the dogs that searched, and no conclusive findings from the soil samplings tested by top experts in the field," Mr Lutze said.

"Therefore I believe the only way to determine once and for all whether there are bodies buried at Barker Ranch from the time of the Manson family is to proceed with limited excavation in a very few areas."

Excavation would take place from May 20-23 at various sites of interest on the ranch. The ranch would be closed to the public during the dig, and only a handful of media would be allowed access, police said.

Manson, 73, is among the most notorious inmates in the United States. He and four of his followers were convicted of seven counts of murder following a crime spree in Los Angeles County.

The Manson family's crimes included the gruesome killing of five people in the home of actress Sharon Tate, who was pregnant at the time of her murder with her husband Roman Polanski's child.

The Manson family have been rumoured to have claimed other victims at the Barker Ranch, however, according to reports and investigators.

Sergeant Paul Dostie of Mammoth Lakes Police has led off-duty efforts to locate possible graves at the site after becoming interested in the case a decade ago, visiting Barker ranch around 13 times over the past year.

"It's been a volunteer effort, it's been something I've been interested in for a long time," Sergeant Dostie said earlier this year.

"I've got a tremendous amount of information that would seem to indicate that some people could have been murdered at the Barker Ranch."

Sergeant Dostie said one of the sites his dog had alerted investigators to meshed with anecdotal evidence of more murders.

"We have one story that Charles Manson and Tex Watson took this girl who wasn't fitting in with the group up to land behind the ranch and came back an hour later without her," he said.

"That was the first area that my dog alerted to. It fits with that story."


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