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Las Vegas police looking for DNA to help identify body in barrel

The human remains found in a barrel at Lake Mead is being worked on by the Clark County Coroner.
Published: May. 4, 2022 at 1:09 PM PDT
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LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) - Las Vegas Metropolitan Police are looking for DNA evidence in hopes to identify remains found in a barrel in Lake Mead over the weekend.

Justin Woo, a Las Vegas entrepreneur and founder of VegasHelps, has previously worked with LVMPD to help solve cold cases through DNA evidence. Woo made a private donation that helped solve the 1989 Stephanie Isaacson murder case through genealogy DNA testing.

Woo said that he has offered to help Metro on this specific case but that LVMPD is still working to retrieve some DNA so it can be tested. Othram Labs in Texas has worked closely with LVMPD on solving cold cases through genealogy.

Remains were found in a barrel at Lake Mead over the weekend after water levels reached historic lows.

Spencer said the clothing on the victim led detectives to believe the body was left in the lake sometime in the late 70s or early 80s.

“When you have remains that have been exposed to the elements it makes it incredibly challenging to get an [identification],” Clark County Coroner Melanie Rouse said.

That’s the tough task for the coroner’s office, that will attempt to make the identification. Rouse said the remains were already processed through their forensic division, but there’s still a lot more to be done.

They take information from while the victim was living and postmortem to try to make a link.

“That often involves multiple different specialists from our medical examiner, forensic technicians and law enforcement partners,” Rouse said. “As well as outside professional consults, which can include an odonatologist, anthropologist, DNA specialist and more.”

LVMPD Lt. Ray Spencer said he didn’t expect to have any additional updates on the case “for months” as police investigate and attempt to make a DNA match.