I-Team: Decades of Death in the Desert Perplex Investigators - 8 News NOW

I-Team: Decades of Death in the Desert Perplex Investigators

Posted: Updated:
Michael Rainey Michael Rainey
Michael Rainey Michael Rainey

LAS VEGAS -- It is always painful for Susan and Ken Rainey to talk about the murder of their 14-year-old son, Michael. But they know that by keeping his memory alive, they improve the chances of solving the crime.

"It could be anyone, and that's the problem. We don't know if these people still come into our house. We don't know if we know this person. We have no idea," said Ken Rainey. "There are other times when I just want my hands around the killer's throat."

Michael ran away from home in August of 1996. Three months later, remains were found in a roadside gully off Lake Mead Drive, east of Sunrise Mountain. Lawmen believed the body was that of a teenage girl, and it took three years for them to finally identify the remains as Michael.

INTERACTIVE MAP: Where the Bodies are Buried

"By the time they found his body, there wasn't too much to go on. Most of the evidence and stuff was gone," said Susan Rainey.

The fact that three other bodies were found in the same gully in the same time frame made police wonder for a time if a serial killer might have been responsible.

"There was nothing to link any of those cases. Those three bodies were totally different cases," said Ken Rainey.

It has become part of the lore of Las Vegas -- the idea that the desert around town is pockmarked by shallow graves left by mobsters, hitmen, or serial killers. And it's not too far removed from the truth.

Records from the Metropolitan Police Department and the Clark County Coroner's Office show, literally, where the bodies are buried. There are 148 cases in all, with about 25 percent suspected homicides. The rest are remains not yet identified.

LVMPD Cold Cases

Other major cities do not have Las Vegas' wide open spaces easily accessible within a short drive. In essence, dumping bodies is a lot like dumping garbage. The same places where people dump trash are spots where bodies pop up again and again.

The area around Apex, for example, is littered with trash, and at least six bodies have been dumped there. Roads leading to Mount Charleston are another favorite disposal site. Eight bodies were found around Laughlin. State Route 160, from Blue Diamond to Pahrump, is another unofficial graveyard. But the locations of choice for body dumpers are near Lake Mead and Lake Mojave.

Every road, every wash, and every gully near the lakes have been used as disposal sites by killers -- spots that are now marked by makeshift memorials, including one for Michael Rainey.

"At night, it's very dark and creepy. We went over there one time and it's creepy," said Susan Rainey. "If I was going to do something like that, I would dump somebody out there. My skin crawls when I think about it."

Metro Homicide Lt. Ray Steiber says there could be many homes built right over top of murder victims. Las Vegas grew so fast during the boom years that what was desert just a few years ago, could now be a neighborhood subdivision. Homeowners do, on occasion, discover human remains in backyards, such as a 2011 incident on Gold Avenue.

The Rainey family still hopes someone will come forward with information about what their son did in the days leading to his murder. Susan Rainey even wrote a book about their ordeal and she says few of Michael's friends volunteered information on his whereabouts.

Anyone with information is urged to call Metro Police.

Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 WorldNow and KLAS. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.