A man who was found dead in a vehicle in a Pacific Palisades neighborhood last week and linked to a home where police discovered a massive cache of firearms appears to have been a 60-year-old longtime Los Angeles County gun collector, police and others said Wednesday.
An attorney representing the dead man’s fiancée identified him as Jeffrey Alan Lash. Several law enforcement sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because an LAPD investigation into the death is ongoing, said detectives believe the dead man was Lash but have not made a conclusive identification.
Shirley Anderson, the longtime partner of Lash’s late father, said she hadn’t seen Lash since 2010 but received a call last week from the L.A. County coroner's office.
A coroner's official, she said, told her that authorities had just found a man’s body inside an abandoned vehicle on Palisades Drive, and that they believed the man was Lash. Anderson said Lash had not provided her with an address or phone number for years.
“We never knew where he lived,” she said.
Coroner Chief Craig Harvey said his office had been in contact with a distant family member of the dead man and was “working with that name [Lash] as a possibility.” A formal identification has yet to be made of the body, which was badly decomposed.
After discovering the man’s body on Friday, Los Angeles police investigators found more than 1,200 firearms and about two tons of ammunition inside his fiancée’s Pacific Palisades home.
LAPD Capt. William Hayes, who heads the department’s Robbery-Homicide Division, said the private gun collection was worth at least $500,000 and possibly more than $1 million.
“He was either into doomsday survivalism, gun collecting or both,” Hayes said, adding that the man appeared to be wealthy.
LAPD Deputy Chief Kirk Albanese said the man was a collector and there was no evidence he ever sold weapons or was a licensed firearms dealer.
Several people who live in the area where the body was found said the man was known only as “Bob” in the neighborhood and described him as a gun fanatic who claimed to have worked covertly for the government. Police have said the man did not do such work for the government.
His fiancée’s attorney, Harland Braun, previously said the man died in the parking lot of Bristol Farms on Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica on July 4. His fiancée, the lawyer said, wasn’t sure what to do with the body and left it in a vehicle on Palisades Drive while she headed to Oregon. Braun said his client believed that a government agency that the man had claimed to work for would come to collect him.
Anderson said she was stunned to learn of Lash's death.
Born in the mid-1950s, Lash grew up in a modest Westchester neighborhood, she said. His mother was a pianist and his father was a microbiologist who owned a medical laboratory, said Anderson, who said she had known Lash for at least 25 years.
For a while it appeared that Lash would follow in his father’s footsteps. In the 1980s, he told his parents he was attending UCLA and studying to become a scientist. But he dropped out and never returned, she said.
UCLA spokesman Ricardo Vasquez said Lash was a student at one point but said he could not release details about his enrollment because Lash had requested that his records remain private.
Anderson, 93, said she knew little about what Lash did after he left UCLA because his communication with the family was limited. He never told her what he did for a living or where his money came from, she said.
“He was just a loner, as far as we were concerned,” she said. “He just became weird because he changed all of a sudden.”
Anderson said Lash was sick and at one point sought holistic medicine for treatment. Police said he had late-stage cancer when he died.
Anderson said she never knew Lash was a gun collector, but she said he used to frequent gun shops.
“He was not very forthcoming about what he was doing,” Anderson said. “He had to be doing something to collect all those guns.”