DNA Could Identify 3 Lake Mead Bodies

There's no sign of foul play in two of the deaths, investigators say
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 3, 2022 1:36 PM CDT
No Cause of Death Determined for 2 of 3 Lake Mead Bodies
A formerly sunken boat sits high and dry along the shoreline of Lake Mead at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, on May 10, 2022, near Boulder City, Nev.   (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

Clark County Coroner Melanie Rouse has, unsurprisingly, ruled that the person whose body was found with a gunshot wound in a barrel at the bottom of Lake Mead was a homicide victim. The coroner says her office is trying to extract DNA from the remains, which will be sent to the FBI, CNN reports. Investigators say clues including the victims' clothes suggest he was killed some time between the mid-1970s and early 1980s. The body was found on May 1. Another body found May 7 is more skeletal than the barrel victim's remains but Rouse still hopes to extract DNA. The cause of death remains undetermined, but investigators believe the person was between 23 and 37 years old.

Rouse says the bodies decomposed slowly in the cool, freshwater environment, leaving organ tissue available for examination. A third body was found on July 25—but unlike the other two, only partial remains were found, and Rouse says the examination is still at an early stage. She says toxicology tests are being conducted. Lt. Jason Johansson of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police homicide unit says there's no sign of foul play with the other two bodies, who may have been drowning victims divers were unable to recover. Johansson—who didn't wait for confirmation from Rouse's office before he started investigating the barrel remains as a homicide—says there's no solid evidence the person was a mob victim.

"Yes, Vegas does have a history in the past where we had a connection to violent crime, to organized crime back in the '60s, the 70s," he tells CNN. "However, right now, there's nothing in this investigation that is directly tying it organized crime." The bodies were found as drought brought the reservoir to historically low levels, exposing long-submerged areas. Despite recent heavy rain, authorities expect Lake Mead to drop another 20 feet by the end of the year, reports the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Police say they expect to find more bodies as the water level continues to recede. (More Lake Mead stories.)

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