Police will ‘definitely not rule out’ the possibility that a skeletal body found in a metal barrel along Lake Mead’s receding shoreline on Sunday is the victim of a 1980s Las Vegas mob hit.
Lt. Spencer did not why specify why it was obvious the victim was murdered, how they were killed, or any other specifics about them.
He said that based on items found inside the barrel it is believed that the victim died in the 1980s, though he did not specify what those items were.
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The skeletal remains of the body were visible through a corroded opening in the rusted metal barrel. The victim’s shirt and belt were still clinging to their bones
The barrel was found embedded in mud along Lake Mead’s receding shoreline. Police say that as water levels continue to drop it is likely that more bodies will be exposed
The Las Vegas strip was notoriously dominated by mob-run casinos in the 1980s, and Lt. Spencer acknowledged that the investigation would ‘definitely not rule out’ that the victim could have been murdered in a mob-hit.
‘We are going to look at that potential possibility.’
The barrel containing the grisly scene was exposed as the lake’s water level continues to plummet amid an ongoing drought.
‘It’s really odd in the sense that had the lake never receded, we would never have discovered the body,’ Lt. Spencer said.
The metal barrel containing the remains was discovered by people strolling along the Lake Mead shore on Sunday afternoon.
The beach where the barrel was found was roped off by park rangers after it was discovered by park-goers on Sunday afternoon
Taken in March 2022, this image shows the reservoir, the largest in the US, down to very low level – with just 30 per cent capacity
The level of the reservoir has varied over the past two decades, standing almost full in 1999 (left) and now at just over 1,055ft (right)
They came upon the rusted metal barrel embedded the in mud along the shoreline, and when they peered into a corroded opening they discovered the skeletal corpse.
‘We were docking our boat to go home and heard a woman scream,’ Shawna Hollister, who witnessed the discovery, told KLAS-TV, ‘My husband walked over and found the body. His shirt and belt were the only thing we could see over his decomposing bones.’
Spencer said that investigators have already set to work identifying the victim, and will be combing through missing persons cases from the 1980s, but that the process could take years as they are starting ‘at square one.’
‘In the 1980s, we did not have any of the DNA databases, so there was no DNA collection,’ Spencer said, adding that if DNA is able to be extracted from the bones the genealogy work required to identify the victim will be extensive.
Many of the problems facing Lake Mead come from the ongoing drought in the region, that has caused the Colorado River basin to become extremely low
The water level in Lake Mead have reached their lowest heights since 1971. The reservoir’s water provides drinking water and and electricity for 40million people
If the drought persists and the lake waters continue to recede, Spencer said it is not unlikely that more bodies will be exposed.
‘I would say that as the water level drops there is a very good chance that we are going to find additional human remains,’ he told KLAS.
Water levels in Lake Mead – the largest reservoir in the US, which is formed by the Hoover Dam River and sits about 24 miles from Las Vegas – have reached their lowest level since 1971.
Levels have been declining for the past few years, as a result of the ongoing megadrought in the southwestern US, as well as increasing demand for water.
The water line in the reservoir now sits at 1,055ft above sea level, well below the maximum capacity of 1,229 ft, and worryingly close to the 1,050ft limit for pumping water out to 40 million people.
The record low water levels are a result of the worst drought in centuries, with human-caused climate change making it 72 per cent worse, studies have shown.
With weather patterns expected to worsen, experts say the reservoir may never be full again.
Made men, Tommy guns and Al Capone’s bullet-riddled Valentine’s Day massacre wall: Las Vegas’ mob days
Las Vegas has long been enamored by its gangster roots.
Casinos including The Stardust, the El Cortez, the Tropicana, the Desert Inn, the Flamingo and the Dunes Hotel were all backed by the mob at one point.
So the story goes, the mob helped to build out the remote highway that would eventually become the Las Vegas strip.
Gangsters then took over resorts built by front men, skimmed the profits and built nightclubs, country clubs, housing tracts and shopping centers.
It was home to notorious gangsters like Davie ‘the Jew’ Berman and Bugsy Siegal.
Siegel was a New York based mobster who is credited with being one of the founders of the Las Vegas strip, funding the construction and opening of the Flamingo Hotel in 1946 with investments from associates like mobster Meyer Lanksy. When the Flamingo’s profits started going south, Seigel was assassinated by an unknown killer. Lanksy took over the Flamingo after Siegel died, and the Flamingo and the Las Vegas strip began to flourish.
Bugsy Siegel, a notorious gangster, moved to Las Vegas to supervise the syndicate-funded construction of the Flamingo Hotel but fell out with mob bosses who thought he was becoming uncontrollable and hemorrhaging money. He was killed in 1947 at the Beverly Hills home of his mistress Virginia Hall
View of the El Dorado CLub on Fremont Street in Las Vegas which was owned by Davie Berman, a notorious gangster who ran Las Vegas casinos for Frank Costello, Meyer Lanksy and Lucky Luciano
View of the illuminated sign of casinos and hotels along Fremont Street, Las Vegas, Nevada, 1955