Toiling in temperatures soaring above the century mark and powerful wind gusts, a team of Inyo sheriff investigators and forensic experts began the tedious work of digging for possible human remains at a lonely desert ranch hideout used by the Charles Manson family.
As some members of the 20 member team excavated a 3 foot by 6 foot plot- inch layer at a time-others sifted through the piles of sandy soil.
Their goal was to determine whether there is any validity to lingering rumors that the notorious clan buried murder victims at the ranch, on the south western edge of Death Valley National Park.
The ongoing investigation was sparked by Mammoth Lakes Police investigator Paul Dostie and his cadaver dog, Buster, in February, 2007. The dog expressed behavior indicating that he had picked up the scent of decayed human remains at five sites. On Tuesday, the team focused on the site, labeled “buster #4”, which they regarded as having the highest probability of containing human remains.
However, during the two hour period in which reporters were allowed to witness the excavation, the only evidence uncovered was a corroded bullet casing. The bullet casing cataloged as evidence #1 was discovered a mere two inches beneath the surface.
Excavation of the second site of interest was turned over to the National Park Service when remnants of what appeared to be ash and small animal bones were discovered. The Park Service will handle the site as an archeological dig.
Digging was scheduled to continue Wednesday. Reporters were allowed to wind their way to Barker Ranch from Ballarat and spend two hours at the scene of the dig. Progress was slow due to the high winds on Tuesday. A crude barrier was set up to protect the loose soil from the dig. Some members of the crew sifted through the soil for clues.
The scene at Ballarat was one of satellite trucks and reporters and staff who fought with the hot, blustery conditions.