Charles Manson's last California hideout burns
Thursday, May 7, 2009
(05-07) 15:42 PDT DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK, Calif. (AP) --
Barker Ranch, an abandoned desert cabin that was Charles Manson's last hideout following his notorious cult murders, was gutted by fire, a park spokesman said Thursday.
The isolated cabin was discovered burned on Tuesday, Terry Baldino said.
"We don't know the cause. We don't know if it was an accident or on purpose," he said.
The cabin was last seen intact last Friday and may have burned over the weekend, he said.
The ranch, which included a main building and a guesthouse, was built of wood, stone and cement. The fire burned most of the wood and damaged the tin roof. Stone walls were standing but must be inspected to determine whether they are safe, Baldino said.
"Basically, it's a gutted building," he said.
The ranch was built in the 1930s by a retired Los Angeles policeman-turned-gold miner, Baldino said. It is located in a rocky canyon in the Panamint Range and can only be reached by a three- to four-hour drive up rugged roads.
It is still visited by off-road enthusiasts but is not listed as a major Death Valley tourist attraction, Baldino said.
Manson and his followers hid at the cabin after killing actress Sharon Tate and seven others in the summer of 1969. He was arrested there that fall and is serving a life sentence.
For years, rumors swirled that other Manson family victims might be buried on the property. However, investigators using high-tech forensic gear found nothing when they dug at the ranch last May.
A restoration crew went to the ranch about a month ago to clean it and make repairs, Baldino said.
Investigators planned to examine the building to determine the cause of the blaze, and a park archaeologist will help determine whether it should be rebuilt, Baldino said.