With much written on the subject of the Charles Manson Family and the killings in Southern California, Mammoth Police Sgt. Paul Dostie believes that the story of the Manson Family activities in the Eastern Sierra remains mostly untold.
The first Manson Family forays to Inyo County are reported to be in the fall of 1968, a year before the Barker Ranch raids. Family members were reported to be staying in the Olancha area.
In November of 1968, 82 year old Olancha resident Karl Stubbs was found badly beaten in front of his house. He died soon after, but before he passed, newspaper reports from 1969 indicate Stubbs told deputies that he was assaulted by two young men and two young women who were laughing and giggling throughout the assault. The article states that Stubbs had let the group into his house to give them a glass of water. The house was also ransacked and $40-50 taken.
No killer was ever charged in this case, but a former Inyo County Sheriff Deputy that we spoke to said that for years after that crime, Deputies thought that Karl Stubbs was killed by Manson Family members.
Another possible Manson slaying in the Eastern Sierra, was a man named Fillipo Tennerelli. Tennerelli was found dead in a hotel in Bishop in October of 1969 of a shotgun blast to the head. The death was ruled a suicide at the time, but some highway patrol officers became suspicious of the official cause of death when weeks after the death of Tennerelli, they found his car over the edge of Father Crowley Point, in the Panamint Valley and on the way to Barker Ranch. CHP reports from 1969 say that officers found quite a bit of blood inside the vehicle. More blood was found on the outside of the Volkswagen, leading investigating officers to suspect foul play.
In January of this year, Deborah Tate, the sister of Manson murder victim Sharon Tate, called the Bishop Police to ask about Tennerelli. Bishop Police Chief Kathleen Sheehan reports that Bishop Detectives took a fresh look at the forty year old case, and have so far not found anything to indicate that the case was anything but a suicide. While investigations have not found evidence of murder, Chief Sheehan says that unanswered questions remain. Police have re-opened the case and left it open. Sheehan says that officers are ready to move if anything new comes up.
While these cases may never pan out, Dostie believes that he has found additional support for the possibility of buried bodies at the Barker Ranch. Former Inyo Sheriff Officer John R. Little recently contacted Dostie to tell him that around 1974, Inyo Under Sheriff Jack Gardiner directed him to go to the Barker Ranch to locate 4 grave sites within 100/150 yards from the main house. At that time they were looking for the body of Family murder victim Shorty Shea, who later turned up buried in Southern California at the Spahn Ranch.
Why would the Undersheriff think there were four bodies at the Barker? Dostie believes that its possible Family member Dianne Snake Lake may have told him that information. Jack Gardiner and his wife adopted Lake after the criminal trials and helped her return to normal life. The former Manson Family member, raised in other cults and given by her parents to the Family, ended up graduating from Big Pine High School. Lake credits the Gardiners for saving her life, Dostie says. He also thinks Lake may have said something to Gardiner.
Sgt. Dostie believes there is still more to the story. With his dog Buster searching for graves at the Barker Ranch, plus additional research, Dostie may end up bringing this chapter of the saga back from obscurity.