Since 2008, around THIRTY bodies have been pulled from Lady Bird Lake in Austin, Texas. 28 of those bodies have been recovered since 2014. This seemingly incredible number has led people to question if all these deaths were really accidental or if there is something more going on.
We will start with some background into the lake. It is known as Lady Bird Lake (many people refer to it as Town Lake). I have read some comments that say it is actually a river and not a lake, wikipedia says it’s a ‘river like reservoir’. The lake/river is on the Colorado River in Austin, Texas.
The reservoir was created in 1960 to act as a cooling pond for a new city power plant. It was named after the former First Lady of the US, Lady Bird Johnson.
The lake has a surface area of 416 acres or 168 hectares. It is now used for recreation and flood control.
Motorized watercraft use is prohibited on the lake, so it’s mainly used for paddleboarding, kayaking, canoes. The lake is said to be calm and is popular for many rowing teams to use.
I have read some comments that say the lake is quite polluted and that is why swimming is not allowed, but apparently that is a rumor. Swimming is prohibited due to many drownings as well as debris in the water from bridges and dams. Swimming has been banned since 1964 and the fine can be up to $500.
In 2019, a toxic blue-green algae was found in the lake and up to five dogs were killed because of it.
A ban on the consumption of fish caught in the lake was issued by the City of Austin in 1990, as a result of excessively high levels of chlordane found in the fish. The use of chlordane as a pesticide was banned in the United States in 1988, the chemical sticks strongly to soil particles and can continue to pollute groundwater for years after its application. The ban on the consumption of fish caught in the lake was finally lifted in 1999.
Another area we will discuss in this episode is Rainey Street:
Rainey Street is a vibrant area in Austin known for its night life and boasts an array of bars, food trucks and restaurants.
We will now go through all the bodies that have been found to date in the lake. This interactive map shows where all the bodies have been found. There is also a Facebook group that has lots of comprehensive info.
In June 2008, a decomposed body was pulled from the lake. This info is from a now archived article from KXAN:
KXAN Austin News was first on the scene Sunday morning as firefighters pulled a dead body out of Lady Bird Lake, near the Holiday Inn by Interstate 35.
Around 6:30 a.m., police got a call from two fisherman who found a badly decomposed body on the lake.
Officials said the body was so badly decomposed that they are unable to determine the sex or age at this moment. The body has since been taken to the Travis County Medical Examiner’s office for an autopsy.
Homicide detectives are investigating and questioning people in the area.
This body was identified as Nazima Habibul, aged 26. She was a preschool teacher who left behind a 2 y/o daughter. She had apparently vanished after telling family she was going to the grocery store.
I haven’t been able to find much more on Nazima and what her confirmed COD was.
You can view Nazima’s obituary here.
The next death is that of Riad Hamad. Riad was a school teacher and peace activist who was reported missing by his family on Monday April 14, 2008.
His car was found in a lot on the south side of Lady Bird Lake.
On Wednesday April 16, 2008, Riad’s body was found floating in the lake. His eyes had been covered with duct tape, his legs and hands had also been found.
According to a report that day by KXAN-TV news, “Park-goers who saw the body said the death did not look accidental. They said the man’s face was wrapped with duct tape, and his arms appeared to be tied in front of his body.”
On Thursday, April 17, APD released a statement saying, “The bindings of his hands and legs and placement of the tape were consistent with Hamad having done this to himself.” Sgt Joe Chacon told the Chronicle that additional evidence – including a security videotape of the parking area where Hamad’s car was found and statements from persons who knew him that “he had been experiencing suicidal thoughts” – also support a finding of suicide but that police are waiting for completion of the entire investigation, including the full autopsy and toxicology report, which will take several weeks. “For all intents and purposes, as far as we know right now,” Chacon said this week, “this was a suicide.”
On January 14, 2012, another body was found in the lake.
A body was found in Lady Bird Lake this afternoon, just downstream from Barton Springs. APD’s homicide unit was at the scene investigating.
That is all the info we have about this death as the KVUE article has been archived.
Cole Christianson (21) was from Anchorage, Alaska and he was found dead on October 13, 2012.
Just to note, Cole wasn’t actually found in Lady Bird Lake but he was found in a creek that runs off it -Shoal Creek.
We have included his death to the close proximity in water that he was found in.
This is from his obituary. I found it interesting that he was clearly very proficient in water.
Cole Christianson passed away on Saturday, October 13, 2012 in Austin, Texas. He passed away unexpectedly while on vacation.
He spent countless nights tearing apart jet skis, motorcycles, and any other toys he thought he could customize. Cole truly lived life to the fullest. There was nothing that could stop him from doing something he loved; Cole was the definition of a daredevil. Cole loved his family and friends more than anything else. He surrounded himself with amazing people who had the same values as he did. Cole spent much of his time with his family and friends at his cabin on Big Lake. Big Lake was his favorite place to be. He loved sitting by the campfire, wakeboarding, jet skiing, and anything that had to do with water.
There is a bit of a jump after this to 2014. The next death was in May 2014 when a man died after falling from his paddleboard. This was a witnessed death and doesn’t seem suspicious.
On February 10, 2014, the body of Eleno Valle was pulled from the lake. Eleno had been reported missing on February 7. Eleno had told his roommate Nathan Jebe that he was going for a walk on February 6. He wasn’t too concerned when Eleno did not return as he thought Eleno might be out with friends.
Nathan became worried the next day when Eleno’s sister asked if he had been seen.
Eleno had been taking medication for depression and his family were worried at the time that he had stopped taking it.
Police said at the time that they were investigating Eleno’s death as a suicide.
On October 13, 2014, the body of Eron David Wrublik was found floating in Lady Bird Lake. Eron had gone missing on Thursday October 9. He had been out with friends in Austin and had called an Uber to get him home to Rainey Street. The driver dropped him instead off near a Holiday Inn on Interstate 35 at around 2.30am on Friday October 10.
Police stated that they believe Eron was walking close to the water and somehow fell in.
Police eventually determined that Eron’s cause of death was accidental drowning.
Julio Santos III (22) was found dead in Lady Bird Lake on June 7, 2015.
Julio was last seen at a dance club called Barbarella on Friday June 5, at around 2.30am.
This info is from the police press release:
Santos was reported as a Missing Person on Friday, June 5, 2015 at 5:58 p.m. and was last seen at E. 6th St. and Red River St. at approximately 2:30 a.m. on Friday, June 5, 2015. The Medical Examiner’s office reported no suspicious trauma to the body. Austin Police are continuing to investigate this death as not suspicious.
The next death was July 22, 2015 – Ramona DeLopez was found in Lady Bird Lake. She was 84 years old. I believe this one is definitely an accidental drowning.
On September 17, 2015, another body was found. The body was found at around 1pm. This info is from KVUE:
Police said Thursday afternoon the death does not appear to be suspicious, and have not determined whether it is a man or woman.
A later article by Fox 7 Austin said this decedent was male, but I haven’t been able to find a name.
On October 24, 2015, a man jumped from a bridge into Lady Bird Lake after he crashed his car. Another explainable death.
On November 29, 2015, Santiago Gonzalez-Becerra (23) was pulled from the lake. He had been missing for a few days. At the time, Spectrum Local News reported:
The Medical Examiner’s office reported no suspicious trauma to the body. The cause of death has not yet been determined.
On February 14, 2016, the body of a male in his 50s was pulled from the lake.
Police said there were no obvious signs of trauma.
There is no other public info about this death.
On February 29, 2016, the body of a woman in her 60’s was pulled from the lake.
According to an article by Fox 7 Austin, her death was being treated as a homicide.
“Since it’s located in a body of water and we don’t know what occurred, we’re going to handle it as suspicious until we determine otherwise,” says Cpl. Angel Polansky, Austin Police Dept.
The title of this article was : Five bodies pulled from Lady Bird Lake in six months
Another man was found dead in the lake on December 28, 2016. No info is known about this man except that he was thought to be in his 40’s and he was found in water near Interstate-35 bridge and the Holiday Inn.
This location is interesting as it is the same location that Eron was last seen at.
On June 14, 2018, a man was pulled dead from the lake.
A passerby spotted the clothed body lying face down in the water before alerting police. The site of the grisly find is near the 1400 Nash Hernandez SR. Road just before 9:20 a.m., officials said. Police also have not disclosed the gender of the deceased.
At the time, police said the death was not considered suspicious.
On August 15, 2018, a man in his 40’s was pulled dead from the water.
APD said evidence from the scene did not indicate that the death was suspicious or “of a homicidal nature.”
On October 11, 2018, the body of Christopher White (25) was pulled from Lady Bird Lake. Christopher was from Minnesota and had been visiting Austin to attend the Austin City Limits Music Festival with friends.
This info about his disappearance and death is from Fox10 Phoenix:
The group attended the music festival on Friday and returned to their rental home near the Colorado River Friday night. Friends reported they last saw Christopher between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. Saturday morning and that he mentioned he might want to go down to the dock, but none of them actually saw him leave the home. He was reportedly intoxicated.
Friends realized Christopher was missing when they woke up Saturday morning and reported him missing later that day. He had left his shoes, phone and wallet behind.
When Christopher was found, authorities said there was no evidence of foul play.
Chris’ cause of death was eventually determined to be accidental drowning. Toxicology testing on Chris’ blood showed traces of ethanol, cocaine and one of its metabolites, cocaethylene (a compound formed in the body when both cocaine and ethanol are present), and methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) and its metabolite.
Martin Gutierrez (25) went missing on Rainey St in Austin on November 19, 2018.
He had been out with friends at a bar called Alibi and he was last seen by them at 1am, when he said he was going to get a ride with a friend.
Martin’s body was found in Lady Bird Lake on November 26, 2018.
Martin’s brother made a statement at the time:
“Martin was the brother I could go to for everything and now he’s gone. I am lost with no idea what direction to go from here. My family, friends, and community have come together in a way I never believed was possible in an effort to help me find him,” Mitchell wrote. “This world will always and forever be significantly less happy without Martin Gutierrez.”
Martin’s cause of death was determined after autopsy to be accidental drowning. According to toxicology reports, he was intoxicated when he died of accidental drowning, but no illicit or prescription drugs were found in his system.
Austin police confirmed they didn’t suspect foul play in Martin’s death.
On August 4, 2019, another body was pulled from the lake.
This is from the Austin police:
APD is currently investigating a deceased person located near 800 W Cesar Chavez in Lady Bird Lake. This is not being investigated as a suspicious death and PIO is not responding.
On September 28, 2019, a man that police said was in his 30’s was found dead in the lake. This person was found in the lake near the Holiday Inn, near where Eron and the man from December 2016 were found.
The body was found by kayakers who towed the man to shore.
I believe this man was Jake Waltrip, who was actually 28 when he died.
Jake lived in Houston and Denton before moving to Orange County, CA for two years and working at Luma Prints. In 2018 he moved back to Texas and started computer coding school at Austin Coding Academy and received his Full Stack Java Web Development certification this year.
After doing some contract work, he recently began working for Mathalicious – a website with real-world math lessons for middle and high school teachers to use in their classes. He was very excited about this job and was very optimistic for his future.
Growing up he enjoyed riding/driving the golf cart and shooting targets out in the country at Grandma and Grandpa’s. And shooting at the gun range with his dad and at Uncle Paul’s house with all the guys and some of the ladies.
As he grew older, he became very philosophical and greatly enjoyed reading and watching and discussing podcasts about life and what is true and important.
He also loved being outdoors and running, riding his bike around the lake, kayaking and camping out in his tent and chilling in his hammock.
On May 24, 2021, Erik Manzanares-Medrano (26) was found dead in Lady Bird Lake.
There is not too much info on this death online, apart from the standard ‘not a suspicious death’ statement by police.
Rocael Rosario Lopez was last seen on New Year’s Day 2022 in the very early morning in Austin.
A friend made this post on Facebook:
HELP US FIND HIM!!
YALL MY COWORKER HAS BEEN MISSING SINCE THE EVENING OF DEC 31ST!!
LAST KNOWN PLACE WAS CELEBRATING NEW YEARS IN DOWNTOWN AUSTIN
HIS NAME IS Rocael rosario López
HIS FAMILY & OUR STAFF ARE WORRIED BOUT HIM..
HIS CELL PHONE IS OFF, NO CREDIT CARDS HAVE BEEN USED & HE HAS NOT BEEN ACTIVE ON ANY SOCIAL MEDIA..
THERE IS A MISSING PERSON OUT ON HIM WITH APD ALREADY, BUT PLEASE SHARE THIS AROUND ANYWAYS
PLEASE CONTACT HIS FAMILY IF THERE IS ANY INFORMATION ON HIM @ +15126964386
OR CALL APD
Rocael’s body was pulled from the lake on January 6, 2022.
Another body was found on July 14, 2022.
This info is from Fox 44:
ATCEMS tweeted at 2:46 p.m. medics went to check on someone floating in the water, and the person was “possibly deceased.” At 3:19 p.m., ATCEMS tweeted an update confirming the person was dead.
As of ATCEMS’ most recent update, crews were “working on recovery and relocation of the victim back to shore.”
The Austin Police Department said its homicide division is responding to the scene, and the body could have been in the lake for “a couple days.”
The next body was found on December 10, 2022.
Deceased person 517-1005 S Pleasant Valley (21:44) #ATCEMSMedics have obtained a deceased on-scene pronouncement of an adult that was found in the lake by 911 caller. #ATCEMS will be clearing the scene shortly. Scene turned over to law enforcement. No further info available.
Another one with no info, but the investigating officer was from the homicide department.
I feel at this point, this is when the deaths seem to start ramping up and increasing.
A body was found in the lake on Christmas Day, 2022.
Law enforcement said it was too early to identify the person or determine what caused their death. There doesn’t seem to have been any public updates since.
Another body was found three days later, on December 28, 2022.
This info is from KXAN:
Officials said 911 received a call at 2:08 p.m. from a person reporting there was a body in the water.
EMS later said an adult was pronounced dead at 2:33 p.m.
Between January to April 2023, four bodies have been pulled from Lady Bird Lake.
Jason John (30) was reported missing on February 5, 2023. He was last seen walking on Rainey Street. He had previously been on a night out with friends. Jason could be seen on CCTV for 10 minutes before he dropped out of sight, due to the lack of cameras in the area. His body was found on February 13. Police said that Jason had no visible injuries on him when he was recovered.
Jason’s body was found in the same area where Martin Gutierrez was found.
Clifton Axtel (40) went missing on February 25, 2023. His body was found on March 5.
LATE FINAL Water Rescue at 700-800 W RIVERSIDE DR (09:54). #ATCEMS & @austinfireinfo were called for a reported body in the water on Lady Bird Lake. Rescue crews located the victim & obtained a Deceased on Scene pronouncement of an adult patient. No other information available.
Some info about Clifton from his obituary:
Clifton Axtell, a beautiful, bright ball of energy, came into this world on September 29th, 1982 in Plano, Texas. He was a son, brother, husband, father, nephew, uncle and grandson. Cliff loved his family deeply. He departed this earth on March 5th, 2023 and is profoundly missed by all who love him.
Cliff married Megan McKnight on March 5th, 2016. He worked as a land specialist for Veritas Commercial Properties in Austin, Texas where he was known for his innovative strategies in commercial real estate. Cliff was in his senior year at Harvard Extension School, where he made the Dean’s list each semester. He attended Southwest Bible Church and was active in Celebrate Recovery where he led worship for three years.
Jonathan Honey (33) was last seen at a taco food truck at 2am on Friday March 31, 2023.
After Jonathan was found deceased on April 1, 2023, the family of Jason John spoke out about the similarities between the cases. Jason’s death had been determined to be an accidental drowning at this point and his family did not agree.
“We definitely don’t agree with that,” said Jason John’s mother Elsie John. “Jason was 30. Jonathan Honey was 33. 2 in the morning. Rainey Street. So there were some similarities in the case.”
“It is very, very concerning,” said SafeHorns president Joell McNew.
McNew says she’s worried about University of Texas students who go out on Rainey Street.
“I know that there have been some comments on social media that it’s just alcohol related,” said McNew. “And I believe it’s definitely more than that.
Jonathan’s family wrote in his obituary that his death was a tragic accident. Jonathan Seth Honey passed away at the age of 33 due to a tragic accident on 31 March 2023. He was born at Griffiss AFB NY to Dr. David A. Honey and Cynthia N. Yellen on 23 February 1990. After spending his early years in Rome NY, Jonathan and his family moved to Hanscom AFB MA and then to Fairfax VA in 1997. During adulthood, Jonathan remained in the Northern Virginia area.
After Jonathon was found Austin PD released this statement:
“The Austin Police Department is aware of speculations regarding the recent drownings in Lady Bird Lake. Although these cases are still under investigation and evidence is being analyzed, at this time, there is no evidence in any of these cases to support allegations of foul play. While each incident has occurred at the lake, the circumstances, exact locations, and demographics surrounding these cases vary. Our investigators approach every case with an open mind and objectively examine all available evidence.
We work closely with the Travis County Medical Examiner’s Office, which conducts a parallel investigation into all deaths. The Medical Examiner performs autopsies in each of these types of death investigations. The results of these autopsies have not revealed any trauma to the bodies nor indication of foul play.
One common theme of the drownings in Austin this year is the combination of alcohol and easy access to Lady Bird Lake, which has numerous access points. Many of the access points can be challenging to see at night. The parks in which most of these drownings have occurred are park areas that close at 10:00 pm and occur after the park closes. We advise the public to follow the rules on park closures.”
Just a few days ago, on April 15, Christopher Hays-Clark was pulled dead from Lady Bird Lake. This info is from Fox 7 Austin:
On Saturday, April 15, around 1:20 p.m., the Austin Police Department responded to the Longhorn Dam, which is the east side of Lady Bird Lake, not near the Rainey Street Entertainment District.
“Multiple people called 911 and said that a suspect appeared to be deceased and was in the water on this end of the lake,” Austin Police Department Officer Michael Bullock said.
Police performed a water rescue and found 30-year-old John Christopher Hays-Clark. Investigators said they don’t suspect foul play.
OTHER SOURCES –