ALEX CHADWICK, host:

Back now with Day to Day. A Death Valley Ranch that once served as a hideaway for Charles Manson could hold some buried secrets, bodies, undiscovered murder victims.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

And that's why detectives from Inyo County, California, are converging today on what's known today as the Barker Ranch. They're there to dig. They believe there's a chance that Manson and his clan didn't stop with the murders of actress Sharon Tate and six others back in 1969.

CHADWICK: Los Angeles Times reporter Louis Sahagun is covering what some are calling the big dig at the dilapidated ranch.

Mr. LOUIS SAHAGUN (Reporter, Los Angeles Times): It's an extraordinarily remote location, reachable only by four-wheel drive. You know, some people think there may be as many as 30 or more, and some others here in Inyo County think this whole big dig effort is a waste of money and time that the County can ill afford.

CHADWICK: So are there any theories about who might be buried there?

Mr. SAHAGUN: There are no theories. There are no names. However, apparently way back when, Manson himself and some of his family members had suggested that there were more bodies to be found on the ranch. A year ago in February, a Mammoth Lakes police detective named Paul Dosti took his cadaver dog, Buster, to the site to poke around and see if they could turn up anything based on the rumors. And low and behold, Buster displayed agitated behavior on at least two sites indicating the presence of decaying human remains.

CHADWICK: And Buster is a dog trained specifically to find old corpses.

Mr. SAHAGUN: That is correct. But subsequent searches were inconclusive, as were subsequent analyses of soil samples. So facing mixed results, the Inyo County sheriff has decided to go and dig at some hot spots based on Buster's behavior, and decide once and for all whether there's anything to these rumors.

CHADWICK: Louis, we called this ranch a Manson hideaway. We know it's in a very desolate corner of one of the most desolate places on earth. How did Charles Manson and his clan wind up there in Death Valley?

Mr. SAHAGUN: I'm not exactly sure how they wound up there, but I do know that they had settled into the location while they were apparently stealing car parts and the like elsewhere, and then they would retreat to this location apparently believing they were beyond the reach of the law somehow. There's talk of back in the day, armed individuals with guns who were acting as lookouts at various high points on the ranch.

CHADWICK: Is the ranch actually in Death Valley National Park or just outside it?

Mr. SAHAGUN: The ranch is actually inside Death Valley National Park. It's surrounded by willows, beautiful willows, and is also the site of a natural spring, which the water of which is used to irrigate those beautiful trees.

CHADWICK: Has Charles Manson, in his many rantings in prison, has he ever said that there are more bodies buried out there at the ranch?

Mr. SAHAGUN: I just spoke with a detective who is involved in this dig, and he has done extensive research. He has knowledge of Manson telling at least one prosecutor that he had killed or was involved in the murders of 30 people or more.

CHADWICK: So there may be, actually, some corpses buried out there, but I gather some people there in the county think this is an enormous waste of time. Others say, well, yeah let's go ahead and see what's out there.

Mr. SAHAGUN: Yes, and part of the problem for locals is that the chatter in places like Panamint Springs Resort and Goler Wash ghost town and all over Inyo County is that people are asking, what if they do find human remains? Well, then, how much will it cost to determine whether those remains are of a 1969 homicide victim or perhaps a 900-year-old Indian gravesite? Then beyond that, what will it take, what will it require, then, to identify the individual if it is a 1969 homicide victim? And then beyond that, does Inyo County has the wherewithal to haul Charlie Manson back to court on a capital punishment charge?

CHADWICK: Well there is that question. Charles Manson was convicted of the massacre of Sharon Tate and others and sentenced to death, but that was later commuted to life in prison. He's still in prison, but if he were convicted of these murders he might, indeed, be eligible for the death penalty again.

Mr. SAHAGUN: Right. People are suggesting that there might be a divided opinion on what to do about that. In other words, what is he - 73, perhaps? I believe. He's never getting out so should they let him be? Or, then, too, there will be other who will say - demand an execution.

CHADWICK: Louis, do you know why we are still fascinated by this story, all these decades after the Charles Manson story first emerged?

Mr. SAHAGUN: Possibly because for many people, the horrific homicidal forays of the Manson gang seemed to bring an end - seemed to underline, I should say, perhaps - a dark side of the summer of love, of the sexual revolution and the expressions of personal freedom that were part of our culture back in the 1960s. So when this happened, it just brought the curtain down, or it seemed to, and so it lingers still as a horrible reminder of the good and bad in almost everything we do. And for those of us my age, I'm 58, it was an abrupt and horrible change...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SAHAGUN: In the weather, if you will.

CHADWICK: Louis Sahagun of the Los Angeles Times. Out of the edge of Death Valley, where police and other officials today will be digging at the Barker Ranch, the old hideout of the Charles Manson clan, looking for more bodies. Louis, thank you.

Mr. SAHAGUN: Thank you.

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