Las Vegas is being inundated with knowledge about 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 notoriously mob-funded Strip.
“There’s no telling what we’re going to 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 unfortunate Anthony “Tony the Ant” Spilotro before serving three terms as martini mayor making public appearances with a showgirl on each arm.
He declined to name names on who might appear 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 mob’s jargon for keeping the lake level and bodies in their watery graves.
Instead, the world now has climate changeand the surface of Lake Mead has dropped more than 170 feet since 1983.
The lake that quenches the thirst of 40 million people in cities, farms and tribes in seven southwestern states has been reduced to about 30% of its capacity.
“If the lake sinks much further, very interesting things are very likely to come out,” said Michael Green, a history professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, whose father played blackjack for decades at casinos like the Stardust and the Showboat. .
“I wouldn’t bet the mortgage that we’re going to figure out who killed Bugsy Siegel,” Green said, referring to the infamous gangster who opened the Flamingo in 1946 on what would become the Strip. Siegel was shot to death in 1947 in Beverly Hills, California. His killer has never been identified.
“But I’d be willing to bet there will be a few more bodies,” Green said.
“A barrel has the signature of a mob hit”
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 that it completed in 2020 to continue serving residents. casinos, the suburbs and 2.4 million residents and 40 million tourists. by year.
The following weekend, boaters saw the broken-down body of a man in a rusty barrel trapped in the mud of the newly exposed shoreline.
The body has not been identified, but Las Vegas police say he was shot, likely in the mid-1970s and early 1980s, based on shoes found with him. The death is being investigated as a homicide.
A few days later, a KLAS-TV news crew found a second barrel, not far from the first. It was empty.
On Saturday, two sisters from suburban Henderson who were rowing on the lake near an old marina noticed bones in a newly emerged sandbar more than 9 miles from the barrels.
Lindsey Melvin, who took photos of their find, said at first they thought it was the skeleton of a bighorn sheep native to the region. A closer look revealed a human jaw with teeth. Park rangers were called, 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 was suspicious, the department said in a statement.
More bodies will be discovered, predicted Geoff Schumacher, vice president of The Mob Museum, a renovated federal building and post office in historic downtown Las Vegas that opened in 2012 as the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement.
“I think a lot of these people have probably drowned,” Schumacher said, referring to the boaters and swimmers who were never found. “But a barrel has the signature of a mob hit. Putting a body in a barrel. Sometimes they would throw it in the water.”
He and Green both brought up the death of John “Handsome Johnny” Roselli, a mid-1950s Las Vegas mobster who disappeared in 1976 just days before his body was found in a 55-gallon steel drum floating off the coast. to the coast of Miami.
David Kohlmeier, a former police officer who is now the co-host of a Las Vegas podcast and fledgling TV show called “The Problem Solver Show,” said Monday that after offering a $5,000 reward last week for qualified divers to find 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 that is not allowed and there are hundreds of barrels in the depths, some of which date back to the construction of the Hoover Dam in the 1930s.
Kohlmeier said he has also heard of families of missing persons and about cases such as a man suspected of killing his mother and brother in 1987, a hotel employee who disappeared in 1992 and a Utah father who disappeared in the 1980s.
“You’ll probably find remains all over Lake Mead,” Kohlmeier said, including the Native Americans who were the first inhabitants of the area.
“It certainly adds to the Vegas mystique”
Green said the discoveries have people talking not only about mob hits, but also about bringing relief and closure to bereaved families. Not to mention the white growing mineral marks on the steep walls of the lake that show where the water used to be.
“People will talk about this for the right reasons and the wrong reasons,” the professor said. “They’re going to think we’re going to solve all the mob murders. In fact, we may see some.
“But it’s also worth remembering that the mob didn’t like murders happening in the Las Vegas area, because they didn’t like bad publicity coming out below the Las Vegas deadline.”
The correct reason, Green said, is the visible evidence that the West has a serious water problem. “The ‘bathtub ring’ around the lake is big and getting bigger,” she said.
Whatever story emerges about the body in the barrel, Goodman predicted it will add to the tradition of a city that, with water from the lake, sprouted from a desert covered in creosote bush to become a gaming mecca. of chance
“When I was mayor, every time I went to an inauguration, I would start shaking in fear that someone I’ve met over the years would be found out,” he said.
“We have very interesting backgrounds,” Goodman added. “It certainly adds to the Las Vegas mystique.”