Bodies surfacing in Lake Mead are reminiscent of Las Vegas mob times


Las Vegas is awash in stories of organized crime after a second set of human remains emerged in a week from the depths of a drought-stricken Colorado River reservoir just a 30-minute drive from the notorious Strip. crowd.

“There’s no telling what we’ll find in Lake Mead,” former Las Vegas mayor Oscar Goodman said Monday. “Not a bad place to dump a body.”

Goodman, as a lawyer, represented mob figures including the ill-fated Anthony “Tony the Ant” Spilotro, before serving three terms as a martini-wearing mayor making public appearances with a showgirl on each arm .

He declined to name names on who might stand in the vast reservoir formed by the Hoover Dam between Nevada and Arizona.

“I’m relatively sure it wasn’t Jimmy Hoffa,” he laughed. But he added that many of his former clients seemed interested in “climate control” – the crowd talking to keep the lake level and the bodies in their watery graves.

Instead, the world is now experiencing climate change, and the surface of Lake Mead has dropped more than 170 feet (52 meters) since 1983.

The lake that quenches the thirst of 40 million people in cities, farms and tribes across seven southwestern states is down to about 30% of its capacity.

“If the lake goes down much further, it is very possible that we will have very interesting things on the surface,” observed Michael Green, professor of history at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, whose father played in blackjack for decades at casinos such as Stardust and Stardust. the Showboat.

“I wouldn’t bet the mortgage we’re going to solve who killed Bugsy Siegel,” Green said, referring to the infamous mobster who opened the Flamingo in 1944 on what would become the Strip. Siegel was shot in 1947 in Beverly Hills, California. His killer has never been identified.

“But I would bet there will be a few more bodies,” Green said.

This photo from Saturday, May 7, 2022, provided by Lindsey Melvin of Henderson, Nevada, shows human remains she and her sister discovered on a sandbar that recently surfaced as Lake Mead recedes.
Lindsey Melvin via AP

First, falling lake levels exposed the highest drinking water intake in Las Vegas on April 25, forcing the regional water authority to switch to a deep water intake it completed in 2020 to continue to supply casinos, suburbs and 2.4 million inhabitants and 40 million tourists. per year.

The following weekend, boaters spotted the decomposed body of a man in a rusting barrel stuck in the newly exposed shoreline mud.

The body has not been identified, but Las Vegas police say he was shot, likely in the mid-1970s to early 1980s, based on shoes found with him. The death is being investigated as a homicide.

A few days later, a second barrel was found by a KLAS-TV news crew not far from the first. It was empty.

On Saturday, two sisters from suburban Henderson who were paddle boarding on the lake near an old marina noticed bones on a newly resurfaced sandbar.

Lindsey Melvin, who took photos of their find, said they initially thought it was the skeleton of a bighorn sheep native to the area. Closer examination revealed a human jaw with teeth. They called park rangers and the National Park Service confirmed in a statement that the bones were human.

There was no immediate evidence of foul play, Las Vegas police said Monday, and they are not investigating. A homicide investigation would be opened if the Clark County coroner determines the death is suspicious, the department said in a statement.

More bodies will be discovered, predicted Geoff Schumacher, vice president of the Mob Museum, a renovated historic downtown Las Vegas post office and federal building that opened in 2012 as the National Museum of History. organized crime and law enforcement.

“I think a lot of those people will probably have been drowned,” Schumacher said, referring to boaters and swimmers who were never found. “But one barrel has the signature hit of the crowd. Pushing a body into a barrel. Sometimes they threw him in the water.

He and Green both cited the death of John “Handsome Johnny” Roselli, a mid-1950s Las Vegas mobster who disappeared in 1976 days before his body was found in a 55-gallon steel drum ( 208 liters) floating off the coast. from Miami.

Misha McBride looks at a now officially sunken boat on fissured land hundreds of feet from what is now the shoreline of Lake Mead at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Monday, May 9, 2022, near Boulder City, Nevada.  Las Vegas is awash with lore about organized crime after a second set of human remains emerged in a week from the depths of the drought-stricken Colorado River Reservoir, just a 30-minute drive from the notoriously mob-founded Strip .
Misha McBride looks at an officially sunken boat now on cracked land hundreds of feet from what is now the shore. Las Vegas is awash in organized crime stories after a second set of human remains emerged in a week from the depths of the drought-stricken Colorado River Reservoir.
AP Photo/John Locher

David Kohlmeier, a former police officer who now co-hosts a podcast in Las Vegas and a fledgling TV show called “The Problem Solver Show,” said Monday that after offering a $5,000 reward last week to divers skilled in finding barrels in the lake, he heard from people in San Diego and Florida willing to give it a try.

But National Park Service officials said it was not allowed and there were hundreds of barrels in the depths – some dating back to the construction of the Hoover Dam in the 1930s.

Kohlmeier said he’s also heard from families of missing people and cases like a man suspected of killing his mother and brother in 1987, a hotel worker who disappeared in 1992 and a father from Utah. which disappeared in the 1980s.

“You’ll likely find remains all over Lake Mead,” Kohlmeier said, including Native Americans who were the area’s first inhabitants.

Green said the findings are prompting people to speak not only of mob beatings, but also of providing relief and closure to grieving families. Not to mention the ever-increasing white mineral marks on the steep sides of the lake indicating where the water was.

“People will talk about it for the right reasons and the wrong ones,” the professor said. “They’re going to think we’re going to solve all the mob murders. In fact, we can see a few of them.

“But it’s also worth remembering that the mob didn’t like murders happening in the Las Vegas area, because they didn’t like the bad publicity that was going out under the Las Vegas deadline.”

The good reason, Green said, is visible proof that the West has a serious water problem. “The ‘bathtub circle’ around the lake is big and getting bigger,” he said.

Whatever story emerges from the body in the barrel, Goodman predicted will add to the lore of a town that, with lake water, sprouted from a desert covered in creosote bushes to become the mecca of marquee gaming.

“When I was mayor, every time I went to an inauguration, I started shaking in fear that someone I might have met over the years would be found out,” he said.

“We have a very interesting background,” added Goodman. “It certainly adds to the mystique of Las Vegas.”


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