LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A body found in a barrel at Lake Mead on Sunday may have been underwater for as long as four decades and more bodies are likely to appear as the lake recedes due to severe drought, according to Las Vegas Metro police.

Boaters discovered the body around 3 p.m. Sunday.

Police suspect the person was killed in the 1980s based on personal items in the barrel, Las Vegas Metro police homicide Lt. Ray Spencer said. He would not elaborate on the person’s cause of death or the items found, citing the ongoing investigation.


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A photo shared with KLAS showed what looked like skeletal remains in the barrel. The barrel looked to have been stuck in the mud.

(Shawna Hollister/KLAS)

“It’s going to take an extensive amount of work,” Spencer said about identifying the victim, adding that his team was reaching out to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas to examine growth on the barrel and when it may have started to erode.

“It’s going to be a very difficult case,” Spencer said. “I would say there is a very good chance as the water level drops that we are going to find additional human remains.”

The ongoing severe drought is leading to other discoveries in the water. Last week, the top of a water intake pipe was visible above the water’s surface as the lake level continues to drop.

A body was discovered in a barrel on the shore of Lake Mead outside of Las Vegas on May 1, 2022. (Shawna Hollister/KLAS)

Lake Mead, located in both Nevada and Arizona, 24 miles east of Las Vegas, dropped below 1,056 feet in elevation last Tuesday, less than a week after hitting 1,057 feet the week before. Lake levels are expressed in altitude, not depth. At its highest levels, the lake is near 1,225 feet.

“I think anybody can understand there are probably more bodies that have been dumped in Lake Mead. It’s just a matter of are we able to recover those?” Spencer said.

The Clark County Coroner’s Office was working to identify the remains.

Tips can be submitted anonymously through Crime Stoppers by calling 702-385-5555 or at crimestoppersofnv.com/report-a-crime. Information can also be sent via text by sending “CRIMENV” and then your message to “CRIMES” (274637). Crime Stoppers offers a reward for information that leads to an arrest.