San Francisco Chronicle, December 2, 1969 - Page 9

 The Spawn movie ranch, where suspects lived at the time of the Tate killings

Tate Suspects' Weird Days in Death Valley

Independence, Inyo County
   The three suspects in the Sharon Tate murders belonged to a nomadic band which lived on the edge of the searing Death Valley and pillaged their way through California, police said yesterday.
   The group was broken up last October when sheriff's deputies, after a five-week investigation of thefts in this area on the southeastern rim of the state, raided their camp and arrested 26 young men and women.
   They were charged with stealing jeeps and dune buggies, and other goods.
   Some of the women were nude when they were arrested. Others wore only bikini bottoms. Men in the group had shoulder-length hair and wore "love beads."


   Deputies said eight children were with the group. Two babies suffering from malnutrition were hospitalized.
   The group had set up elaborate observation posts equipped with walkie-talkies surrounding its camp in the parched, stony and sometimes noxious desert known since immigrant days as one of the most inhospitable places in the country.
   Only a few prospectors and rangers inhabit the area. Tourists and rockhound visit Death Valley but do not linger in the blazing temperatures, which reach 120 degrees. It is the site of the lowest point in the continental United States at 282 feet below sea level.
   Place names mirror the strange history of Death Valley–Badwater, Lathrop Wells, Scotty's Castle, Dead Horse, Emigrant Pass, Furnace Creek.


   Deputy Jerry Hildreth said, "It was extraordinary the way they covered up their tracks and would make dummy camps to throw us off."
   Although one man was charged with possession of a sawed-off shotgun, deputies encountered no resistance when making the arrests. Other charges against the group included conspiracy, concealing stolen property, arson and receiving stolen property.
   The group, described by Los Angeles Police Chief Edward Davis as a "roving band of hippies," migrated from Spawn movie ranch in the San Fernando Valley northwest of Los Angeles after the slayings.
   Inyo officials said only 11 of those arrested remain under their jurisdiction. Charges against the others were either dismissed or they were sent to other jurisdictions where they were wanted.

United Press