The victim, identified as 32-year-old Javonnta Murphy, was discovered on July 31 inside a 55-gallon drum floating in the water near the Pacific Coast Highway bridge.
The coroner’s report also lists Murphy’s cause of death as a homicide. Murphy was found naked and sealed inside the barrel at the time.
A park maintenance worker first spotted the barrel and paddled out in a kayak to investigate. When they tried to drag it to shore, it was too heavy so they left it in the water, according to the L.A. Sheriff’s Department.
When a lifeguard arrived at work the next day and spotted the barrel around 10 a.m., they swam out to retrieve it. When they opened the barrel, that’s when they made the gruesome discovery, authorities said.
“It didn’t look decomposed or like it had been there for a long time,” said LASD Lt. Hugo Raynaga.
It’s unclear how long the body had been inside the barrel. Authorities also added the high tide may have carried the barrel into the lagoon from the ocean.
Murphy was an aspiring rapper and musician who dreamed of becoming a successful artist, the Los Angeles Times reports.
He was raised in South Los Angeles with four brothers. A family friend, Patrick Nelson, 46, said Murphy had just moved into his first apartment in Sylmar when he was killed.
Nelson said he wasn’t aware that Murphy frequented the Malibu area and told the Times he was a good kid who wasn’t involved in gang activity. He also couldn’t think of any potential enemies who might have targeted Murphy.
Nelson said he’ll always remember Murphy as an ambitious young man with dreams of pursuing music.
At the time, beachgoers and surfers in the area were “deeply concerned” and shocked when they learned of the discovery.
“It’s something that doesn’t happen very often at all here,” one beachgoer told KTLA. “It’s unthinkable.”
Details are limited as the circumstances surrounding Murphy’s murder remain under investigation. No suspect information was released. Detectives are continuing to search the area for clues, witnesses, and surveillance footage that may help in the investigation.
No further information was released. Anyone with information is asked to contact the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department at 323-267-4800.