Body of “murder of the 1980s” found in a barrel in Lake Mead

A barrel containing human remains was found in Lake Mead after a prolonged mega drought in the American West caused a historic drop in water levels.

The barrel was discovered Sunday afternoon near Hemenway Harbor at the reservoir on the Colorado River near the city of Las Vegas.

Boaters who found the barrel alerted the National Park Service (NPS). The independent reached out to NPS for comment.

In a statement, Las Vegas police said on May 1, around 5:45 pm, their department was informed of the discovery of a barrel containing human remains in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

“We believe this is a homicide due to a gunshot wound,” Homicide Lt. Ray Spencer said.

Investigators believe the victim was killed in the mid-1970s and early 1980s, based on the clothing and footwear the victim was found in.

“I would say there is a very good chance, as the water level drops, that we will find more human remains,” Lt. Spencer of the Las Vegas Police also told KLAS-TV on Monday.

Victim identification will be released by the Clark County Coroner’s Office as soon as it becomes available. No further information was released due to ongoing investigations.

One witness, Shawna Hollister, told KLAS-TV: “We were docking our boat to go home and we heard a woman scream. My husband went over and found the body.

“His shirt and belt were the only thing we could see above his rotting bones.”

Police also plan to contact experts from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, to analyze when the barrel began to erode.

The lake level has dropped so much that the highest water intake on drought-stricken Lake Mead became visible last week. The American West is suffering from a mega drought that lasted two decades, exacerbated by the climate crisis.

The reservoir on the Colorado River behind the Hoover Dam has become so depleted that Las Vegas is now pumping water from the depths of Lake Mead, which also extends into Arizona.

The “pool ring” visible due to the low water levels at Lake Mead

(AFP via Getty Images)

Lake Mead reached its peak in July 1983, at 1,225 feet (373.4 meters) above sea level. Last Friday, the level was 1,055 feet (321.6 meters), about a third full.

Some of the steeper cliffs that line the lake show 170 feet (51.8 meters) of white mineral “bathtub ring”.

Lake Mead, along with Lake Powell upstream, are the largest reservoirs in the United States and are part of a system that supplies water to more than 40 million people, tribes, agriculture and industry in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming and across the southern border into Mexico.

Anyone with information on this incident is encouraged to contact the LVMPD Homicide Section by phone at 702-828-3521 or by email at To remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers by phone at 702-385-5555 or on the Internet at

AP contributed to this article

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