The search for possible Manson victims

DEATH VALLEY Detectives and scientists began digging shortly after noon at the Barker Ranch in Death Valley.

Click in the Eyewitness News Story Window above to watch Gene Gleeson's report from the scene.

The team of law enforcement, volunteer scientists and park rangers wants to prove or disprove the rumor that the Manson family killed many more victims and buried them in the desert 40 years ago.

It's 21st century science trying to unearth evidence of possible 20th century murders.

Whether it's fully cooperative or not, we still need to go in there and at least excavate a little bit to see if there are human remains, and see if we can bring some closure to this," said Lt. Jim Jones from the Inyo County Sheriff's Department.

The forensics team has chosen five sites to excavate. Two of them are near the wash and three are up behind the Barker Ranch house, where the Manson family hid after the Tate-La Bianca murders in 1969.

The sites were chosen after Buster, a cadaver dog, alerted them to the locations. Buster's handler, Sgt. Paul Dostie from the Mammoth Lakes Police Department, took an interest in possible unsolved Manson murders several years ago. He said Barker Ranch was the perfect place for murder.

"Up here, there's no one to hear you scream, and there's really no presence of the government and everything. You have a feeling that you can do whatever you want to do, particularly in 1969," Dostie said.

Many feel that this is all a waste of money. No one was reported missing from that era. But Vincent Bugliosi, who prosecuted the Manson family, said that was to be expected.

"They could be drifters, ex-cons -- that area there is a place where people go just to escape from the world," he said.

Bugliosi convicted Manson and five of his followers of nine murders, but he said he always felt there were as many as 35 victims, and so the scientists dig.

But they admit, now 39 years later, it's like looking for a needle in a haystack.


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