Body found in barrel at Lake Mead could be first of many grim discoveries due to extreme drought and receding water levels
- Bodies are being dredged up as water recedes in Lake Mead due to drought, including one found in a barrel.
- Detectives suspect that the individual was killed sometime in the 70s or 80s.
Human remains that were found Sunday concealed in a washed-up barrel on Lake Mead are believed to be that of a male gunshot victim from decades ago, police told The Associated Press. And law enforcement warned that there is a "very good chance" more human remains are found as drought causes the lake's waters to recede.
Detectives believe that the homicide occurred sometime between the mid-70s and early '80s based on what the victim was wearing, according to a Tuesday press release from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.
The body was discovered around 3 p.m. Pacific Time on Sunday.
"We were docking our boat to go home and heard a woman scream," Shawna Hollister, a witness to the discovery, told local outlet KLAS-TV in Las Vegas. "My husband walked over and found the body. His shirt and belt were the only thing we could see over his decomposing bones."
The investigation is ongoing and the identity of the victim is still unknown. The Clark County Coroner's Office will release the information on the victim's identity once the information is available.
Las Vegas Metro police homicide Lt. Ray Spencer told the outlet that it's going to be a "very difficult case" that requires an "extensive amount of work."
Lake Mead, the country's largest man-made body of water, is located about 40 miles outside of Las Vegas. As the lake's water continues to dwindle during the Nevada drought, more bodies in the reservoir are expected to pop up soon.
Water levels have dropped almost 150-feet since 2000, according to the Southern Nevada Water Authority.
As Insider's Morgan McFall-Johnsen reported in August 2021, "For the first time ever, the US federal government has declared a water shortage on the Colorado River." The river is connected to Lake Mead, which is experiencing record low water levels.
2022 has been the driest year for Nevada within the last 128 years, and drought conditions are expected to intensify, according to the National Integrated Drought Information System.
"There is a very good chance as the water level drops that we are going to find additional human remains," Las Vegas Metro police homicide Lt. Ray Spencer told KLAS-TV.
"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 added.
The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.