The man whose body was found stuffed inside a barrel at Malibu Lagoon State Beach on Monday has been identified as a 32-year-old Sylmar man whose social media accounts indicate his work as a recording artist and music writer.
The Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner identified the man as Javonnta Murphy. But coroner’s officials have given no other details about the cause and manner of death, which is under investigation by Los Angeles County sheriff’s homicide detectives.
Law enforcement sources told The Times that because the barrel was sealed and the man inside it was naked, the death is likely a case of foul play.
While Murphy’s death was listed as occurring Monday, exactly when he died and how long he been in the 55-gallon drum is still under investigation.
In Instagram posts, Murphy can be seen producing, recording and writing music, both alone and with other artists. In one video, posted about three months ago, he is shown hiking in Malibu Creek State Park.
Lt. Hugo Reynaga of the sheriff’s homicide bureau said the barrel was first pulled to the sandy shore of the Malibu lagoon on Sunday by a maintenance worker, who paddled out in a kayak to get it. The maintenance worker didn’t open the container.
About 10 a.m. Monday, a lifeguard on duty saw the same barrel — now back in the lagoon — swam out and brought it onto the beach, where he opened it and discovered the body, Reynaga said. A source familiar with the investigation who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly said the barrel was opened because of its suspicious weight.
Reynaga said the barrel’s origin is still to be determined, noting that it’s unclear whether it came in on the tide.
“At about 8 p.m., there’s a high tide here,” he said, “and there’s a possibility that the container could have come in from the ocean and then got stuck in the lagoon — but we don’t know.”
He said after the department made public the container’s finding, they received calls from visitors to the area saying the barrel may have been there Saturday.
Reynaga said coroner’s officials will determine how Murphy died. As for how long the body had been there, he noted that “the foot didn’t look decomposed.”