Ten years ago another dig at the Barker ranch, where Manson was captured in 1969, yielded no results. The current excavation, at different sites, stems mostly from the efforts of police Sgt. Paul Dostie, of Mammoth Lakes, Calif., and his cadaver-sniffing black Labrador, Buster. Intrigued with the case and the rumors that have swirled about possible other victims, Dostie trained 4-year-old Buster to detect decomposing bone, not just flesh—a relatively new canine science. A February 2007 search of the ranch by Buster and other dogs highlighted several potential graves. Says Debra Tate, the sister of Sharon: "Buster is outrageously talented."
Aside from curiosity, is there any practical benefit to the excavation? Manson prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi points out that if Manson could be convicted of new murders, he could face the death penalty. "I hate to say it," says Bugliosi, but until now, "in a way Manson has beaten the rap."