After the discovery of the second set of human remains within a week from the depths of a dry Colorado River reservoir only 30 minutes away from the reputedly mob-founded Strip, Las Vegas is flooded with a legend about organized crime.
As the shoreline of Lake Mead recedes due to the severe drought afflicting the western United States, more human remains have been discovered.
The unidentified remains were discovered near Swim Beach in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area late on Monday afternoon, according to a statement from the National Park Service.
The age of the remains is unknown and the park service said: “The investigation is ongoing.”
In the popular south-western US recreation area created by the construction of the Hoover Dam between Nevada and Arizona, a number of gruesome discoveries have been made as the lake’s surface area has shrunk.
“There’s no telling what we’ll find in Lake Mead,” former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman said Monday. “It’s not a bad place to dump a body.”
Before serving three terms as a martini-toting mayor who made public appearances with a showgirl on each arm, Goodman practised law and represented mob leaders, including the unfortunate Anthony “Tony the Ant” Spilotro.
He refrained from naming any specific people who might surface in the enormous reservoir that Hoover Dam has created between Nevada and Arizona.
“I’m relatively sure it was not Jimmy Hoffa,” he laughed. But he added that a lot of his former clients seemed interested in “climate control” – mob speak for keeping the lake level up and bodies down in their watery graves.
Instead, climate change is a reality today, and Lake Mead’s surface has decreased by more than 170 feet since 1983.
Lake Mead, that quenches the thirst of 40 million people living in cities, farms, and tribal communities throughout seven Southwestern states is only down to about 30% of capacity.
“If the lake goes down much farther, it’s very possible we’re going to have some very interesting things surface,” observed Michael Green, a University of Nevada, Las Vegas history professor whose father dealt blackjack for decades at casinos including the Stardust and the Showboat.
“I wouldn’t bet the mortgage that we’re going to solve who killed Bugsy Siegel,” Green said, referring to the infamous gangster who opened the Flamingo in 1946 on what would become the Strip.
According to Green, the discoveries have people talking about more than just mob hits and how to comfort and provide closure to grieving families. Not to remark the progressively larger white mineral stains on the steep lake walls that indicate where water once was.
“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 every mob murder. In fact, we may see some.
“But it’s also worth remembering that the mob did not like murders to take place in the Las Vegas area, because they did not like bad publicity going out under the Las Vegas dateline.”
The right 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,” he said.
Whatever information comes to light regarding the body in the barrel, according to Goodman, it will enrich the history of the city that emerged from a desert covered with creosote bushes to become a major center for gambling.
“When I was the mayor, every time I went to a ground breaking, I’d begin to shake for fear that somebody I may have run into over the years will be uncovered,” he said.
“We have a very interesting background,” Goodman added. “It certainly adds to the mystique of Las Vegas.”