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Human remains in barrel from ‘1980s murder’ surfaces due to drought conditions at lake near Las Vegas

‘I would say there is a very good chance as the water level drops that we are going to find additional human remains,’ Las Vegas police Lt. Ray Spencer said

Louise Boyle
Senior Climate Correspondent, New York
Wednesday 04 May 2022 05:38 BST
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This photo taken Monday, April 25, 2022, by the Southern Nevada Water Authority shows the top of Lake Mead drinking water Intake No. 1 above the surface level of the Colorado River reservoir behind Hoover Dam. The intake is the uppermost of three in the deep, drought-stricken lake that provides Las Vegas with 90% of its drinking water supply. (Southern Nevada Water Authority via AP)
This photo taken Monday, April 25, 2022, by the Southern Nevada Water Authority shows the top of Lake Mead drinking water Intake No. 1 above the surface level of the Colorado River reservoir behind Hoover Dam. The intake is the uppermost of three in the deep, drought-stricken lake that provides Las Vegas with 90% of its drinking water supply. (Southern Nevada Water Authority via AP)

A barrel containing human remains has been found at Lake Mead after a prolonged megadrought in the American West caused a historic decline in water levels.

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

Boaters who found the barrel alerted the National Park Service (NPS). The Independent has contacted the NPS for comment.

In a statement, the Las Vegas Police said that on 1 May, at around 5.45pm, their department was notified of the discovery of a barrel containing human remains at Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

“We believe this is a homicide as a result of a gunshot wound,” said Homicide Section Lt. Ray Spencer.

Detectives believe the victim was killed sometime in the mid ‘70s to early ‘80s, based on clothing and footwear the victim was found with.

“I would say there is a very good chance as the water level drops that we are going to find additional human remains,” Las Vegas police Lt Spencer also told KLAS-TV on Monday.

The identification of the victim will be released by the Clark County Coroner’s Office when it becomes available. No further information was released due to the ongoing investigation.

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

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

Police also plan to reach out to experts at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas to analyse when the barrel started eroding.

The lake’s level has dropped so much that the uppermost water intake at drought-stricken Lake Mead became visible last week. The American West is suffering from a two-decade megadrought that is being exacerbated by the climate crisis.

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

The ‘bathtub ring’ visible due to low water levels at Lake Mead (AFP via Getty Images)

Lake Mead reached its high-water mark in July 1983, at 1,225 feet (373.4 meters) above sea level. This past Friday, the level was 1,055 feet (321.6 meters) — around a third full.

Some of the steepest cliffs bordering the lake show 170 feet (51.8 meters) of white mineral “bathtub ring.”

Lake Mead, along with Lake Powell upstream, are the largest human-made reservoirs in the US and part of a system that provides 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 in Mexico.

Anyone with any information about this incident is urged to contact the LVMPD Homicide Section by phone at 702-828-3521, or by email at homicide@lvmpd.com. To remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers by phone at 702-385-5555, or on the internet at www.crimestoppersofnv.com.

AP contributed to this article

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