Lake Mead has a problem: First, a body was found in a barrel at the lake. Then, just a week later, human remains were found in another area of the lake.
Now, as the lake’s water levels continue to recede, there are concerns that the remains of people who had been killed by organized crime members decades ago may also be found. Lake Mead, after all, is only about a 30-minute drive from Las Vegas.
“There’s no telling what we’ll find in Lake Mead,” Oscar Goodman, former Las Vegas mayor, said, according to the Associated Press. “It’s not a bad place to dump a body.”
Goodman served three terms as mayor of Las Vegas. Before that, however, he was an attorney who represented mob figures such as Anthony “Tony the Ant” Spilotro.
And, while Goodman may not — publicly, anyway — speculate about whose body may be found, he did note that some of his former clients seemed concerned about Lake Mead’s water levels staying high enough to conceal bodies, the Associated Press reports.
A Popular Conservation Area
Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the U.S., and Lake Mohave are part of Lake Mead National Recreation Area, America’s first and largest national recreation area. Since the 1.5 million-acre area includes mountains, canyons, valleys, and the two lakes, it’s no wonder people visit to swim, boat, canoe, kayak, hike, bike, camp, and fish. Indeed, 7.6 million people visited the area in 2021, according to the National Park Service.
Sitting in parts of Nevada and Arizona, Lake Mead is a reservoir formed by the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River. As a reservoir, Lake Mead is part of a system that supplies water to at least 40 million people across seven states and northern Mexico.
The problem is that Lake Mead’s water level is around 1,052 feet above sea level, which is the reservoir’s lowest level since it was filled in the 1930s, according to CNN. Furthermore, as of last August, Lake Mead’s water level was only at about 35 percent of its capacity, according to NASA’s Earth Observatory.
The first body discovered at Lake Mead was in a corroded barrel on May 1. The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department believes the person was a murder victim who died from a gunshot wound.
“Detectives believe the victim was killed some time in the mid ’70s to early ‘80s, based on clothing and footwear the victim was found with,” according to Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Homicide Lieutenant Ray Spencer.
Then, a week later, more human remains were found on a sandbar. There doesn’t seem to be evidence of foul play, and the police are not investigating, according to the Associated Press.
A Mob Connection
As Lake Mead’s water levels drop, some people in Las Vegas believe more victims’ remains will be found.
“If the lake [water level] goes down much farther, it’s very possible we’re going to have some very interesting things surface,” said University of Nevada, Las Vegas, history professor Michael Green, the Associated Press reports. “I wouldn’t bet the mortgage that we’re going to solve the murder case of who killed Bugsy Siegel [infamous gangster], but I would be willing to bet there are going to be a few more bodies.”
Geoff Schumacher, vice president of the Mob Museum, formerly The National Museum of Organized Crime & Law Enforcement, also believes more bodies will be discovered.
“I think a lot of these individuals will likely have been drowning victims,” Schumacher said, referring to boaters and swimmers who have been reported missing over the years, the Associated Press reports. “But a barrel has the signature of a mob hit. Stuffing a body in a barrel. Sometimes they would dump it in the water.”
Even detective Spencer believes more bodies will be found with connections to organized crime.
“The lake has drained dramatically over the last 15 years,” Spencer said, according to CNN. “It’s likely that we will find additional bodies that have been dumped in Lake Mead” as the water levels continue to drop.
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