LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Since May, four sets of human remains have been found at Lake Mead. As of Monday, the Clark County coroner’s office had identified two of them, with investigations into the other pair – including a murder victim found in a barrel – underway.

On May 1, 2022, boaters at Lake Mead discovered a man’s body concealed in a barrel near Hemenway Harbor. County officials said the man died from a gunshot wound, with the manner of his death being homicide.

On July 25, 2022, swimmers found human remains floating near Boulder Beach. Portions of a person believed to be from the same individual were discovered on Aug. 6 and Aug. 16.

“Do you think we are close to figuring out who these people are?” 8 News Now investigator David Charns asked Clark County Coroner Melanie Rouse on Monday.

“It would be very difficult to place a timeframe on it,” Rouse said.

Rouse’s office identified two sets of bones — found in Callville Bay on May 7, 2022, and Oct. 17, 2022 — through missing person reports and DNA, she said.

“We view identification as a very important part of what we do — giving a name back to a decedent that we’ve recovered,” she said.

Investigators at the coroner’s office can only use the information they have, she said. They have pulled DNA samples from the two outstanding remains.

“Is it fair to say that the DNA tests so far have turned up no match?” Charns asked.

“It is still being processed,” she said. “Again, you are only as good as what you can compare to. The challenge in solving cases is we are really only good at the information that exists for us to compare to.”

A body was discovered in a barrel on the shore of Lake Mead outside of Las Vegas on May 1, 2022. (Shawna Hollister/KLAS)

There is no timeline nor a deadline for when the remains could be identified. The coroner’s office works with an outside agency to test for DNA, Rouse said. While DNA can be pulled from bone, the quality of a decedent’s remains plays a part in the identification process, Rouse said.

“Sometimes remains may never be able to be identified,” she said. “If the information doesn’t exist for comparison, there’s not a magic tool out there for us to say this is who the person is.”

Who the murder victim in the barrel is may be even more difficult to solve. As the 8 News Now Investigators reported last year, Metro police suspect the man was killed in the 1980s based on personal items in the barrel. The victim was wearing clothing and shoes sold at Kmart stores in the mid-to-late 1970s.

Homicide detectives would not elaborate on the person’s cause of death, or the items found, citing the ongoing investigation. Police believe the barrel was fully intact when it was dropped into the lake.

The second set of remains, a partial torso floating without its limbs, is related to two sets of bones found in the area, Rouse said.

Homicide detectives have requested DNA from multiple families to help solve the case of the body in the barrel, Metro police previously told the 8 News Now Investigators. The families were chosen from several unsolved missing person cases from that time.

The FBI’s national DNA database – CODIS – did not exist in its current form until the late 1990s.

“We are working through the investigative process and following up on any investigative leads that we have,” Rouse said.

A man stands on a hill overlooking a formerly sunken boat standing upright into the air with its stern buried in the mud along the shoreline of Lake Mead at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Friday, Jan. 27, 2023, near Boulder City, Nev. (AP Photo/John Locher)

As for solving the two unsolved cases, and all unidentified remains in her office’s custody, Rouse said the more information the better.

“It’s not too late to come forward and try to make an identification,” she said.

The 8 News Now Investigators have interviewed two families whose DNA was compared to the remains. Neither family was a match.

Skeletal remains found in the area of Callville Bay on Oct. 17 belong to Donald Smith, of North Las Vegas. Officials said Smith drowned in April 1974. He was 39 at the time.

The coroner’s office identified the remains found in Callville Bay in May as Thomas Erndr, of Las Vegas. Erndt was 42 years old when he drowned on Aug. 2, 2002.

Tips can be submitted anonymously through Crime Stoppers by calling 702-385-5555 or at Information can also be sent via text by sending “CRIMENV” and then your message to “CRIMES” (274637). Crime Stoppers offers a reward for information that leads to an arrest.

The coroner’s office can be reached by calling 702-455-3210.

To reach investigative reporter David Charns with any tips or information, email