May 8th, 2008
02:32 PM ET

If there are bodies behind the ranch...

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://cnnpreview.turner.com:82/2008/CRIME/05/08/bts.rowlands.manson/art.barker.cnn.jpg caption="Authorities could decide this week to start digging for more bodies at Barker Ranch, Charles Manson's hideout." ]

Program Note: Are there more victims buried on a remote ranch in Death Valley where Charles Manson and some of his cohorts were arrested nearly 40 years ago? Watch Ted Rowlands' report tonight on 360° 10p ET

Ted Rowlands
360 Correspondent

One person that should know if there are bodies behind the Barker Ranch is Charles "Tex" Watson, Manson's right hand man. Watson was one of the first 30 some family members to relocate to the ranch in Death Valley after the Tate Labianca murders. Watson, who's now a quasi preacher at Mule Creek state prison in Northern California, is serving a life sentence for the Helter Skelter murders. He admitts being largely responsible for the actual killing of actress Sharon Tate and six others in 1969.

About a month ago we contacted Watson by mail asking for permission to come visit. Usually when we send letters to prisoners we don't get a response, but about a week later we got a letter back from Watson! He didn't want to meet, but he did say in his two page hand written letter that he didn't know anything about bodies at Barker Ranch. Read Watson's letters to CNN

After traveling to the insanly remote Barker Ranch (read Gabe Ramirez blog) its hard for me to believe that Watson wouldn't know about any other murders, unless he's lying, which seems unlikely considering he's a 60 something man who's already admitted to hacking seven people to death, and is serving a life sentence.

We also wrote to the other Manson family members in prison (including Charlie) but have not heard anything.

If there are bodies behind the Barker Ranch, its unlikley we'll ever know who they are without some help from the Manson family.

Read the full story

Filed under: Crime & Punishment • Ted Rowlands
soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. Mark

    I wanted to further mention that the Manson family was found about a 150 miles from where we lived in the Mojave desert.
    It's reported that Charles manson is now serving his sentence in Northern California; at Pelican Bay. Aproximatley 150 miles from where I now live in Southen Oregon.

    May 9, 2008 at 3:36 am |
  2. Mark

    I find the renewed interest in the Manson case compelling. My father was in law enforcement at the time of the 1969 killings, and involved in the search for the family. I vividly remember ,as an eight year old, wondering why/how could they have done these horrible things, and where were they hiding. This feeling was repeated a few years later when driving through SF with my parents to again wonder where the SLA was hiding, and if Patti Hearst was still alive. My fist tastes of domestic terrorism, and how it would affect a childs sense of security, or the lack of. These acts become part of our individual experience; our history; our fear as we recoil.

    May 9, 2008 at 3:26 am |
  3. Lilarose in Oregon

    I was age 26 when the Manson murders took place. Even in Portland, Oregon we felt the horror, especially for the very pregnant Sharon Tate, who begged that her baby (a boy) be spared. "Mr." Watson declined.

    I would hope that the Barker Ranch site is now off limits to the curious so it won't be destroyed. I am surprised there is still one stone left in that building that someone hasn't carted off. It might seem remote to some, but not for me in Southern Oregon, where I live less than 20 miles from where the Kim family got stranded a year and a half ago.

    May 9, 2008 at 12:12 am |
  4. Jim

    Next time you report do your home work. The arresting officer was a California Highway Patrol Officer. They were investigating a stolen car ring in Death Valley. He was not using the bathroom but searching under the sink when he pulled on Charlie's hair...Charlie was hiding like a child, not some bold leader.. Most of this information is in Helter Skelter and in several articles written by those involved.

    I agree with others that this is simply more about some dog and his master wanting some attention.

    May 8, 2008 at 11:31 pm |
  5. deb

    Why did they wait almost 40 years to investigate this ranch ? The police should have assumed that this was very much a possibilty a long time ago. I am sure it would have been a relief for those families who have never known what has happened to their loved ones. Shame on those who were in charge of the investigation.

    May 8, 2008 at 10:55 pm |
  6. Chris Simmons

    Hopefully the evidence will show that there is a need to dig at Barker Ranch.
    As for Watson his comments are self serving as always. He worries about people using this to promote "books", well he has written a couple of books and produced videos so I don't understand how he can call into question anyone else's motives.
    I am the webmaster for TateFamilyLegacy.com and SharonTate.net and I can tell you Debra Tate is not doing this to promote any book. Her family has worked tirelessly for victim's rights for years and has never tried to turn a profit off of these crimes. They do it for their Daughter/Sister and for the other victims of the Tate-Labianca murders (others who were also close friends of the Tate family) and all victims of violent crime.

    May 8, 2008 at 10:17 pm |
  7. Teresa

    I find it highly probably that Watson would lie at 60. If he kept bodies hidden this long, he can do it longer. Time.... makes us forget what's real and what's not. It would damage his image in prison if he had to fess up to more murders at this point.

    I agree with Tammy: if one of the bodies were my relatives, I would like to know too. It matters.

    I'm glad he found God. ; )

    May 8, 2008 at 9:30 pm |
  8. Annie Kate

    There probably are graves out there in the desert home of the Manson family. If they can be recovered and identified it would at least let their families know what finally happened to them all those years ago.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    May 8, 2008 at 9:00 pm |
  9. Tammy, Berwick, LA

    I think it would be closure for families of those missing if their remains were found. At least it would answer one question in their minds. God knows how many young people ended up at this crazy house and became part of this "family" or wandered in and never left. If it was one of my loved ones, I'd want to know even if it was almost 40 years after the fact.

    May 8, 2008 at 6:49 pm |
  10. Praetorian, Fort Myers

    Who gives a darn. What are we going to do–convict him of more life sentences?

    There will be know way to tie him in with any bodies left on that ranch–he was trespassing there in the first place.

    Clearly...this is only about some DA getting some headlines–and feeding the nation a bunch of Bison dung.

    May 8, 2008 at 5:15 pm |
  11. Larry

    Wonder how much it has cost the taxpayer to keep Manson & Co. in prison all this time.

    May 8, 2008 at 4:21 pm |
  12. Marion

    Am glad to see Ted Rowland report on possible dead bodies than on political issues. At least, I can believe him.
    Wonder if all missing victims will be recovered??

    May 8, 2008 at 3:31 pm |
  13. Cindy

    I am not surprised that you heard back from Watson. He probably enjoys the notoriety. I am surprised that you haven't heard from any of the rest of them.

    I think that they would lie just to make it harder for authorities to find the bodies. It really wouldn't matter as far as them being convicted of more murders because they are in prison and will never get out. But it would make it harder to figure out who the people are if there are any found and they'd get some air time so to speak.

    May 8, 2008 at 2:50 pm |