Human remains appear in Lake Mead, what happens next?

With more human remains found on what was once the bed of a mega-drought-stricken Lake Mead, many wonder if more bodies will be discovered and the circumstances of their deaths clarified.

Lake Mead, the nation’s largest man-made reservoir, is receding to historic lows as the southwestern United States faces a severe drought. Lake Mead provides food for at least 25 million people in Nevada, Arizona, California and Mexico.

According to Los Angeles Times. Its critical levels led authorities to pump deeper into the reservoir.

A rusting metal barrel, near where another barrel was found containing a human body, lies exposed on shore during low water due to the western drought at Lake Mead Marina on the river Colorado at Boulder City, Nevada on May 5, 2022.
PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images

As news broke that receding tides from Lake Mead began to uncover corpses, speculation swirled about how they got there. With a history of mob activity in Las Vegas, the lake is now believed to have been used as a dumping ground for corpses, particularly after a barrel with a skeleton inside was discovered on May Day.

Lt. Ray Spencer, who heads the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) Homicide Division, told media that the body belonged to a male who was shot. Based on his clothes and shoes, the man would have been at the bottom of the lake as early as the mid-1970s or early 1980s.

“If the water hadn’t receded this far, we never would have found this victim,” Spencer told FOX5 Las Vegas.

If DNA can be extracted from the remains, the LVMPD Homicide Team will attempt to identify the victim and the circumstances of his death.

“It’s going to be a very difficult part of this investigation,” Spencer told FOX5.

The process of getting a DNA match will take months. After that, Spencer said, the genealogy data will be used to “see if we can link any potential DNA to any living family members so that we can begin our investigation.”

Investigators are also trying to determine the exact year of the man’s murder. Spencer said they could enlist the help of experts at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas or the FBI lab in Quantico, Va. “to see if they can tell us the erosion of the metal, if that can give us a timeline on how long this metal would take to erode, as well as some of the marine life that grew on the barrel, if that’s any indication of the timeline.”

Speaking to KLAS-TV, Spencer predicted more bodies would be found as Lake Mead continues to dry up.

“I think everyone can relate that there are probably more bodies that have been dumped in Lake Mead, it’s just a matter of, are we able to recover them?” he said.

On Saturday, park rangers responded to the latest discovery of skeletal remains, which were found in Lake Mead’s Callville Bay, the National Park Service said. An investigation is ongoing and the Clark County Medical Examiner has been contacted to determine the cause of death.


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