LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The Clark County coroner’s office has identified three sets of remains found at Lake Mead last year as one man who disappeared in 1998.
Claude Russell Pensinger was 52 years old when he was last seen in July 1998, the office said. He was fishing with his brother, who was in a separate boat, when Claude failed to meet at a location on the lake later in the day, documents the 8 News Now Investigators obtained said.
Pensinger’s brother said Claude was a “good swimmer” and identified him as a Navy and Coast Guard veteran, documents said.
Since May, the remains of four different people have been found at Lake Mead.
On July 25, 2022, swimmers found Pensigner’s remains floating near Boulder Beach. Portions of the remains found on Aug. 6 and Aug. 16 were confirmed to also belong to Pensigner.
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.
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.
There is no timeline as to when the remains found inside the barrel could be identified. 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.
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 on May 7 as Thomas Erndt, 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 crimestoppersofnv.com/report-a-crime. 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.