LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A woman’s body went undiscovered in a car in short-term parking at Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas for nearly a month, in a part of the garage just yards away from passenger pickup.
The car sat undisturbed for 23 days. It was not until a parking employee noticed the smell that he called police.
“The odor around the vehicle — it’s pretty, pretty horrific,” an officer said in body-camera video NewsNation affiliate KLAS obtained documenting the response.
The discovery comes on the heels of a report finding thieves have stolen dozens of cars parked at the airport garages over two years. While there are cameras and license plate readers throughout the garages, KLAS found they do not always work or do not capture every vehicle. Dozens of stolen vehicle reports show surveillance and other security measures in place are not catching nor preventing all thefts.
“To me, it seems like there’s no safety in that garage, at all,” a former airport employee who requested anonymity said.
A parking employee discovered the woman’s body in the car in the short-term parking area of the Terminal 1 garage on Nov. 1, 2022, documents said.
“This is passenger pickup — short-term passenger pickup,” the Metro officer said on his body camera video as he relayed his location to dispatchers.
Short-term passenger parking is intended for stays at the airport of three hours or less, the airport’s website said. The woman entered the garage on Oct. 8 and died by suicide, a report said. The total time her body lay there, 23 days, is more than 500 hours over that 3-hour limit.
The area is also a row away from the busy road where passengers meet awaiting cars, albeit an area where no stopping is allowed.
“They’re supposed to an inventory on the short-term parking and obviously somebody just went and pencil-whipped. They never actually verified if that particular vehicle had been there and how long it’s been there,” the former employee said.
The report about the woman’s death indicates there was a record of the car entering the garage. It was unclear if employees inventoried the car, and if they did, why no one realized a body was inside. It also was not clear why a vehicle was allowed to be parked in a sensitive area for more than three weeks.
“To come to the airport and leave for a couple of days and come back and your vehicle is missing, it’s terrible,” said Chris Arencibia, whose car was stolen last year. “It’s a terrible feeling.”
KLAS found Arencibia’s car was one of about four dozen vehicles stolen from airport property that victims have reported to Las Vegas Metro police over the past two years.
“My concern is not the vehicle — it’s just at 4 o’clock in the morning, women, men, young, older people, could go up there and something could happen to them and there’s no camera to see what’s going on,” he said, adding the parking office told him there was no video surveillance of his car.
In November, KLAS interviewed an airport spokesperson as part of the station’s original story about car thefts. Unknown at the time, that interview was recorded the day after the parking employee had found the deceased woman in her car.
“There’s a lot of different components in place to check on the vehicles,” airport spokesperson Joe Rajchel said in November. “We have people who go through at night — check the license plates that are here to again keep that information and see what vehicles we have on property.”
In another interview, a Metro police captain said cameras do not capture all crimes or incidents in the garages. The ex-employee said staffing shortages and automation have led to fewer patrols. The added removal of parking booths has eliminated human interaction and instinct if a suspicious issue were to arise.
“There will be some nights when they have bike patrol that they may only have one,” they said.
While signs for short-term parking and the airport’s website claim there’s a three-hour limit, Rajchel said a car can be parked there for 30 days before it is towed.
While the car with the woman’s body in it was “logged as in pulling into the garage,” according to a report, it was unclear if there was other surveillance of it available. Reports for stolen cars KLAS obtained show a lack of surveillance, with one person reporting their car missing with “no record of the vehicle leaving.”
“Department of Aviation did not have any surveillance cameras at the location of occurrence,” one stolen-vehicle report said. Another wrote, “[airport staff] did not have any video surveillance of his vehicle entering the parking garage or leaving.”
“I can’t speak to the reports. I haven’t seen them,” Rajchel told KLAS in November. “I can’t speak to what is behind that.”
Some theft reports obtained by KLAS indicated daily car inventories as recently as December 2022, but it remained unclear why the woman’s car went unnoticed.
“We often see travelers choose to park in short term to conveniently and quickly find a parking spot, especially during busy times, when the long-term garage fills,” said Rajchel in an emailed response to queries about the woman’s discovery.
The ex-employee said garage staff is not allowed to look into vehicles nor could they see inside if the windows were obscured. A report on the incident indicates the woman’s windows were tinted, but that a sunroof was left open.
Reid Airport is one of the nation’s busiest, with tens of millions of passengers traveling through each year. That includes millions of travelers who live and work in the Las Vegas valley and who park at the airport before getting on a flight.