Charles Manson ranch hunt for graves begins By Tom Leonard in New York Last Updated: 1:51PM BST 20/05/2008 Detectives and scientists are due to start digging for undiscovered graves today at the former ranch of Charles Manson and his murderous cult. AP Charles Manson is serving a life sentence at Corcoran State Prison The dig at the Barker Ranch in Death Valley, California, will be led by sheriff’s officials assisted by specialists in detecting disturbed soils and chemical markers that indicate likely grave sites. The expedition to the secluded ranch is expected to last until Thursday and will take investigators into the Panamint Mountain range, within Death Valley National Park. Manson and his followers holed up at the ranch after they murdered Sharon Tate, the actress wife of Roman Polanski, and six others in 1969. Police have long suspected that the group, which Manson called his “family”, might have killed more people. There were rumours of young people who hitchhiked into the desert, stopped at the ranch and were never seen again. Susan Atkins, a family member, reportedly told a prison cellmate while awaiting trial that there were “three people out in the desert that they done in”. The decision to start investigating the site further followed initial tests in February that found at least two sites that could be graves. The discoveries were made by a team that included two researchers from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee using equipment to detect chemical traces of human decomposition and a police detective with a dog trained to find corpses. After further soil sampling with inconsistent results, Bill Lutze, the local sheriff, agreed to the exploratory excavation. The National Park Service has closed the ranch to the public for the duration of the dig. The searchers will use technology that wasn’t available when Manson and his followers were arrested nearly 40 years ago. It includes radar, magnetometers and portable gas-chromatograph and mass spectrometers that can detect chemical markers characteristic of bodies in decomposition. But they will do the digging with shovels, said Mr Lutze. Manson is serving a life sentence at Corcoran State Prison in California.