The body of the 1980s murder was found in a barrel in Lake Mead

A metal barrel containing the remains of a person killed in the 1980s was found Sunday on the shore of Lake Mead in Nevada, a discovery that the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department said was made possible by the ongoing drought.

“It’s really strange in the sense that if the lake had never receded, we would never have found the body,” Lieutenant Ray Spencer of the police department said by phone Monday.

Lt. Spencer said the police were trying to establish the identity of the victim. He declined to release details about the victim, including possible age, gender or a specific cause of death. He said the person apparently “died as a result of a murder,” but did not say how this was determined.

Lt. Spencer said that based on items found inside the barrel, investigators believe the victim was killed in the 1980s. He refused to reveal the nature of those elements.

Lt. Spencer said the lowering of the lake’s water level could lead to more bodies being found in the lake. So it is not uncommon for a murder to be committed in Lake Mead each year, said Rangers of the National Park Service.

Lt. Spencer said experts at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, will help them identify the remains and determine the age of the metal in the barrel.

Lieutenant Spencer said that since the victim was murdered in the 1980s in an area near Las Vegas, where gang-linked casinos dominated the strip, investigators “certainly wouldn’t rule out” that the killing might have been Mafia-related.

“We’ll look into that potential possibility,” he said.

The barrel was discovered around 3 p.m. Sunday by people walking along the coast of Lake Mead – America’s largest man-made reservoir, which is located about 40 miles east of Las Vegas and was formed by the construction of the Hoover Dam.

Lieutenant Spencer said they saw the rusted, corroded barrel embedded in the mud, and the beige exterior was covered in rags. As the sun was shining on the neighboring boats floating in the water, they peeked inside and discovered a skeleton.

“We were mooring the boat back home and we heard a woman scream,” said Shauna Hollister, a witness to the discovery. KLAS . TV in Las Vegas. “My husband walked in and found the body. His shirt and belt were the only thing we could see above his decaying bones.”

Barrel photos obtained by KLAS . TV Show him on his side, near the retreating shore, with a boat floating in the background.

Witnesses said they called the National Park Service, which responded and confirmed that the contents inside were in fact human remains. The National Park Service then contacted the Las Vegas City Police Department, which is investigating the matter.

Lt. Spencer added that investigators also plan to examine missing persons cases from the 1980s to look for clues.

Lieutenant Spencer said the investigation could take years because the police started “on square one”.

“In the 1980s, we didn’t have any of the DNA databases, so there was no DNA collection,” he said.

If investigators are able to recover DNA samples from the remains, Lieutenant Spencer said, it will require extensive genealogical work to establish a person’s identity.

Since 2000, Lake Mead’s elevation has decreased by about 150 feet due to “drought and climate change,” according to the Southern Nevada Water Authority.

Recent conditions have led to significant drops in the water level. On Sunday, the Southern Nevada Water Authority issued a mandatory summer water restriction.

In August, the federal government for the first time Declare water shortage in Lake Mead, interrupting the area’s water supply.