Body of 1980s homicide found in barrel at Lake Mead

A metal barrel containing the remains of a person killed in the 1980s was found on the shores of Nevada’s Lake Mead on Sunday, a find th...

A metal barrel containing the remains of a person killed in the 1980s was found on the shores of Nevada’s Lake Mead on Sunday, a find that the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department says was made possible by a persistent drought.

“It’s really strange in the sense that if the lake had never receded, we never would have discovered the body,” Lt. Ray Spencer of the police department said Monday by phone.

Lt. Spencer said police were trying to find out the identity of the victim. He declined to share any details about the victim, including a possible age, gender or cause of death. It’s clear the person “died as a result of homicide,” he said, but he wouldn’t share how that was determined.

Based on items recovered from inside the barrel, investigators believe the victim was killed in the 1980s, Lt Spencer said. He declined to say what those items were.

The drop in the lake’s water level could lead to the discovery of more bodies in the lake, Lt. Spencer said. National Park Service rangers find one or two bodies at Lake Mead each year, he said, “so it’s not uncommon to work on a lakeside homicide.”

Experts from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas will help them identify the remains and determine the age of the metal in the barrel, Lt. Spencer said.

Since the victim was killed in the 1980s in an area near Las Vegas, where crowd-connected casinos dominated the Strip, investigators “certainly won’t rule out” that the murder may have been mob-related, said Lt. Spencer.

“We will look into this potential possibility,” he said.

The barrel was discovered around 3 p.m. Sunday afternoon by people walking along the shore of Lake Mead – America’s largest man-made reservoir, located about 40 miles east of Las Vegas and formed by construction of the Hoover Dam.

They saw the corroded and rusting barrel sunk in the mud, its beige exterior covered in barnacles, Lt. Spencer said. As the sun shone on nearby boaters floating in the water, they peeked inside and discovered a skeleton.

“We were mooring our boat to go home and heard a woman screaming,” said Shawna Hollister, who witnessed the discovery. KLAS TV in Las Vegas. “My husband walked over and found the body. His shirt and belt were the only thing we could see above his rotting bones.

Photos of the barrel obtained by KLAS TV show it off to the side, near the receding shore, with a boat floating in the background.

Witnesses called the National Park Service, who responded and confirmed the contents inside were in fact human remains, Lt. Spencer said. The National Park Service then called the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, which is investigating.

Investigators also plan to scan missing persons cases from the 1980s for clues, Lt Spencer added.

The investigation could take years as police are starting “from square one”, Lt Spencer said.

“In the 1980s we had no DNA databases, so there was no DNA collection,” he said.

If investigators are able to recover DNA samples from the remains, it will take extensive genealogy work to determine the person’s identity, Lt. Spencer said.

Since 2000, Lake Mead’s elevation has dropped nearly 150 feet due to “drought and climate change”, according to the Southern Nevada Water Authority.

Recent conditions have resulted in greater water level declines. On Sunday, the Southern Nevada Water Authority issued mandatory summer water restrictions.

In August, the federal government for the first time declared a water shortage at Lake Mead, causing cuts in the area’s water supply.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Body of 1980s homicide found in barrel at Lake Mead
Body of 1980s homicide found in barrel at Lake Mead
Newsrust - US Top News
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