Lake Mead mob murder: Gun found near site of body in barrel
The huge Lake Mead, which was formed by the damming of the Colorado River, is at historically low levels (AFP)

US detectives investigating a possible decades-old mob murder said Thursday they had found a gun near the spot on an evaporating Las Vegas lake bed where a body inside a barrel was discovered.

Numerous bodies have been revealed this year at rapidly receding Lake Mead, with Mafia-watchers speculating the body in the barrel was the handiwork of gangsters from the gambling haven's crime-ridden past.

Police have revealed few details about the finds, but the victim discovered in May had been shot in the head and stuffed in a barrel before being thrown overboard -- a trademark of the hitmen who stalked Las Vegas in the 1970s and 1980s.

"A firearm has been recovered in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area on August 17, 2022, in close proximity to where one of the human remains were found," police in Las Vegas tweeted.

They added, however, that it was too early to determine whether it was connected to the current investigation.

A police spokesman confirmed the weapon, which was discovered by a journalist, had been located near the spot where the barrel was found.

Days after the body in the barrel surfaced, another corpse was reported. A third was discovered in July.

Two more sets of skeletal remains were found this month in the Swim Beach area.

A historic drought gripping much of the western United States is putting a strain on water sources, with reservoirs and lakes falling to record low levels.

Lake Mead once sat 1,200 feet (365 meters) above sea level. But after more than two decades of drought, it is rapidly shrinking.

On Thursday it was at only 1,042 feet -- close to its lowest level since the reservoir was filled in the 1930s.

Scientists say human-caused climate change, fueled by the unchecked burning of hydrocarbons for energy, is exacerbating the natural drought cycle.