The mystery around a Los Angeles man whose decomposing body was found in an SUV near a home filled with 1,200 guns, tons of ammunition and $230,000 in cash was only deepening Thursday.
Identified by an attorney for his fiancée as Jeffrey Alan Lash, 60, the man apparently acted secretively for years, never explaining to those around him exactly what he did for a living.
When he died in early July after collapsing in a Santa Monica grocery store parking lot, Lash refused to go to a hospital or let anyone call 911, celebrity defense attorney Harlan Braun said in an interview with KTLA Wednesday evening.
Braun represents Lash’s fiancée, Catherine Nebron, who fled to Oregon with an employee after leaving Lash’s body parked in an SUV outside her home in the Palisades Highlands development of upscale Pacific Palisades. The disappearance of that employee, 39-year-old Dawn VadBunker, in turn prompted a missing person investigation from Oxnard police. VadBunker was found safe in Oregon, but has not contacted her family, her mother said.
VadBunker believes that Lash is an alien-human hybrid who was sent to Earth to protect the world, her mother told KTLA.
“It’s worse than a ‘Twilight Zone’ movie, and we’ve lived through hell,” Laura VadBunker said.
Meanwhile, Nebron returned to her home and was horrified to find the body of a man she had been with for 17 years still in the parked vehicle, Braun said. She contacted Braun with her story, asking him to call police on her behalf.
Lash had told Nebron that the “undercover government agencies” he worked for would take care of his body after he died, according to Braun.
“It’s a very strange situation. She still believes it, to her core, that he was working for some government agency,” Braun said. “These stories sound so crazy, and every time we turn around, we get corroboration for it.”
Braun called police, who found the body. Then, in Nebron’s home, they found a weapons cache she had described: more than 1,200 firearms and about 6 1/2 tons of ammunition, according to Braun.
The guns were worth $5 million, Braun said. Some $230,000 in cash was also found in the home, according to the attorney.
The Los Angeles Police Department has confirmed finding the body, weapons and ammunition on July 17. The county coroner’s office was still not able to provide the identity of the deceased man as of Thursday.
Lash’s father’s domestic partner, 93-year-old Shirley Anderson, told KTLA that she and her partner never knew where Lash lived or had any way to get in touch with him. When Lash’s father was dying, Anderson said she was unable to contact Lash, who never came to the funeral.
Lash’s father and Anderson only saw Lash when he randomly appeared at their home. They last saw him in 2010, Anderson said.
Anderson told the Los Angeles Times that Lash had grown up in a modest neighborhood in Westchester with a pianist mother and microbiologist father who owned a medical laboratory. Lash dropped out of UCLA in the mid-1980s and had was a "loner," Anderson told the newspaper.
Anderson said she was unaware of any independent wealth that would allow Lash to purchase millions of dollars in weaponry.
An attorney who represented Lash in 2009 also called his client’s behavior strange. Lash was charged with misdemeanor possession of a concealed weapon after being stopped by Culver City police, according to court documents. Because Lash had the ammunition and firearms in his vehicle properly stowed, the case was dropped, the attorney said.
Lash refused to give any contact information to the law firm, and would call once per day to get an update on the case, according to the lawyer.
A third lawyer, Robert Rentzer, told KTLA he had represented Lash for nearly 20 years, often in connection with his client's firearms. Lash was simply a gun collector and very private man, Rentzer said.
“A lot of people would call him odd because of his overwhelming desire for privacy,” Rentzer said at his Tarzana office. “Some people considered him a little weird.”
But Rentzer called the belief that Lash was a secret agent or an alien “laughable.”
Nonetheless, he said he didn’t know what Lash did for a living or how he afforded his extensive gun collection.
“I knew him to have this ... fetish for guns, to an excess. I don’t know anybody who would have that inordinate number of weapons,” Rentzer said. “And the collection only increased and increased.”
Rentzer was surprised by the cash that was found in the home, as well as by the massive amount of ammunition.
“I do not know that he ever, ever, ever fired any of his guns. Never,” Rentzer said. “He took pride in how they were maintained.”
The attorney showed a note Lash had hand-written listing many of his guns and provided a grainy, black-and-white photo of Lash that he said was from a driver's license issued in 1996.
He would have been 42 when the license was issued, and Lash looks rather young in the photo. Nonetheless, the image "looks very much like I remember Jeff to look like," Rentzer said.
Braun said he too didn’t know who Lash actually worked for. He said there was no evidence the man was selling guns or drugs.
“He could have been working for anyone,” Braun said. “It’s hard to imagine, however, that it’s a total figment of his imagination because there is so much money involved. There’s almost $5 million worth of guns that were taken by the police.”
Photos from the scene of the police search show dozens and dozens of boxes of ammunition, a cash counter with thousands of dollars stacked nearby, and many piles of rifles and specialized firearms.
Several storage units remained to be searched, Braun said. He had heard that there were at least four heavily modified Toyota SUVs ready for combat and able to operate in various types of terrain, including in the desert and even underwater.
“If we find a car designed to go underwater, that’s really bizarre,” Braun said. “The real problem is if he was working for a government agency, American or foreign, they would never corroborate it.”