Human remains surfacing in drought-ravaged Lake Mead recall the Vegas crowd’s time: “There’s no telling what we’ll find”

Las Vegas is flooded with organized crime knowledge after a year second set of human remains emerged within a week from the depths of a drought-ravaged reservoir in the Colorado River, just a 30-minute drive from the infamous mafia-infested Strip.

“There’s no telling what we’ll find in Lake Mead,” former Las Vegas mayor Oscar Goodman said Monday. “It’s not a bad place to dump a body.”

As a lawyer, Goodman represented mafia figures, including the ill-fated Anthony “Tony the Ant” Spilotro before serving three terms as a martini-toting mayor making public appearances with a showgirl on each arm.

He declined to name names about who might turn up in the huge reservoir formed by the Hoover Dam between Nevada and Arizona.

“I’m relatively sure it wasn’t Jimmy Hoffa,” he laughed. But he added that many of his former clients seemed interested in “climate control” — crowds speaking to keep the lake level and bodies in their watery graves.

Instead, the world now has climate changeand Lake Mead’s surface has dropped more than 170 feet since 1983.

Human remains from Lake Mead
Rusting debris that used to be underwater is above water level on Lake Mead in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Monday, May 9, 2022, near Boulder City, Nev.

John Locher/AP


The lake that quenches the thirst of 40 million people in cities, ranches and tribes in seven southwestern states has reached about 30% capacity.

“If the lake goes much further down, it’s very possible we’ll get some very interesting things on the surface,” noted Michael Green, a history professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas whose father shared blackjack in casinos for decades. , including the Stardust and the Showboat.

“I wouldn’t bet on the mortgage we’re going to solve that killed Bugsy Siegel,” Green said, referring to the infamous mobster who opened the Flamingo in 1946 on what would become the Strip. Siegel was shot and killed in Beverly Hills, California, in 1947. His killer has never been identified.

“But I’ll bet there will be a few more bodies,” Green said.

“A barrel has the signature of a mafia hit”

First, the falling lake level on April 25 exposed Las Vegas’ highest drinking water intake, forcing the regional water authority to switch to a deep water intake it completed in 2020 to shut down casinos, suburbs, and 2.4 million residents and 40 million tourists. continue to supply each year.

The following weekend, water sports enthusiasts saw the dissolved body of a man in a rusted barrel stuck in the mud of the newly opened coastline.

The corpse has not been identified, but Las Vegas police say he was shot, likely between the mid-1970s and early 1980s, according to shoes found on him. The death is being investigated as murder.

A few days later, a second barrel was found by a KLAS-TV news crew, not far from the first. It was empty.

On Saturday, two Henderson sisters, who were paddleboarding on the lake at a former marina resort, noticed bones on a newly surfaced sandbar more than 9 miles from the barrels.

Human remains from Lake Mead
These photos from Saturday, May 7, 2022, provided by Lindsey Melvin of Henderson, Nev., show human remains she and her sister discovered on a sandbar that surfaced recently as Lake Mead retreated. A closer look revealed a human jaw with teeth.

Lindsey Melvin / AP


Lindsey Melvin, who took photos of their find, said they initially thought it was the skeleton of a bighorn sheep native to the region. A closer look revealed a human jaw with teeth. They called park rangers and the National Park Service confirmed in a statement that the bones belonged to people.

There was no direct evidence of malicious intent, Las Vegas police said Monday, and they are not investigating. A homicide investigation would be opened if the Clark County coroner determines the death was suspicious, the department said in a statement.

More bodies will be discovered, predicted Geoff Schumacher, vice president of The Mob Museum, a renovated historic post office in downtown Las Vegas and a federal building that opened in 2012 as the National Museum of Organized Crime & Law Enforcement.

“I think a lot of these individuals are likely to have been victims of drowning,” Schumacher said, referring to boaters and swimmers who were never found. “But a barrel has the signature of a mafia hit. Putting a body in a barrel. Sometimes they dumped it in the water.’

He and Green both cited the death of John “Handsome Johnny” Roselli, a Las Vegas mobster in the mid-1950s who disappeared in 1976 a few days before his body was found in a 55-gallon steel drum lying offshore. from Miami.

David Kohlmeier, a former police officer who now co-hosts a Las Vegas podcast and an fledgling TV show called “The Problem Solver Show,” said Monday that after offering a $5,000 reward for qualified workers last week, divers to find barrels in the lake, heard of people in San Diego and Florida wanting to try it.

But National Park Service officials said that’s not allowed and there are hundreds of barrels in the depths — some dating back to the construction of the Hoover Dam in the 1930s.

Kohlmeier said he also heard from families of missing people and about such matters as a man suspected of murdering his mother and brother in 1987, a hotel worker who disappeared in 1992, and a Utah father who disappeared in the 1980s.

“You’ll probably find remains all over Lake Mead,” Kohlmeier said, including Native Americans who were the area’s first inhabitants.

“It definitely adds to the mystique of Las Vegas”

Green said people in the discoveries are not just talking about mafia hits, but also about bringing relief and closure to grieving families. Not to mention the ever-expanding white mineral markings on steep lake walls showing where water used to be.

“People will talk about this for the right reasons and the wrong reasons,” said the professor. “They’ll think we’re going to solve every Mafia murder. We might even see a few.

“But it’s also worth remembering that the mob didn’t like murders being committed in the Las Vegas area because they didn’t like bad publicity below the Las Vegas date line.”

The right reason, Green said, is visible evidence that the West has a serious water problem. “The ‘bathtub ring’ around the lake is big and getting bigger and bigger,” he said.

Whatever story emerges about the body in the barrel, Goodman predicted it will contribute to the lore of a city that, with lake water, sprouted from a creosote-clad desert to become a gambling mecca for big tents.

“When I was mayor, every time I went to a groundbreaking cause, I started trembling for fear that someone I’ve encountered over the years will be discovered,” he said.

“We have a very interesting background,” Goodman added. “It definitely adds to the mystique of Las Vegas.”

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