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Cadaver-sniffing dogs look for bodies on Manson ranch

May 19, 2008 |  5:25 pm

Buster_the_cadaversniffing_dog_2Sometimes a dog is more than dog; sometimes it's a crime-buster.

Rumors have persisted for decades that there are graves at a secluded ranch hangout used by the Charles Manson clan after a 1969 killing spree.

On Tuesday, Inyo County sheriff's investigators and scientists plan to go to the Barker Ranch in an attempt to confirm that rumor or put it to rest.

Earlier this year, cadaver-sniffing dogs used at the ranch displayed "telltale agitation" at two sites.  (The lead dog was a black lab named Buster, at right.) Times staff writer Louis Sahagun reports:

Buster is owned by Mammoth Lakes Police Department Det. Paul Dostie, a small-town investigator with a penchant for recruiting anthropologists, geneticists and geophysicists for his cases.

"The dogs were trained to alert on the unique combination of odors that make up the smell of dead people," Dostie said in an interview. "They alerted on the same spots at Barker Ranch."

Intrigued by the dogs' enthusiasm, soil samples were analyzed by scientists who volunteered their services, Dostie said. Analyses of soil samples were inconsistent, as were subsequent searches. Facing mixed results, Inyo County Sheriff Bill Lutze authorized four days of exploratory excavation.

The search is expected to continue through Thursday.

Photo: Gary Kazanjian / Associated Press

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