The fiancée of a California man found decomposing in a parked SUV has claimed that he was a CIA agent and was dying from nerve gas poisoning, according to her lawyer.
The bizarre case has left Los Angeles authorities baffled. After the body was first discovered last week, police traced the man back to a town house in the Pacific Palisades, where they recovered more than 1,200 firearms, as well as nearly two tons of ammunition.
While the body hasn’t been positively identified as of yet, it’s believed to be that of 60-year-old Jeff Lash. Lash became ill July 4 in the parking lot of a Bristol Farms grocery store in Santa Monica with his fiancée Catherine Nebron and a friend. They tried to cool him off with ice but he died in the SUV.
Nebron drove back to her house, parked the vehicle – with the body of her betrothed still inside – across the street, then left the state. Two weeks later, she returned to find his badly decomposed body still sitting in the car. That’s when she became concerned.
“She figured that whoever he was working with would understand what was going on and they would get the body out of there,” criminal defense attorney Harland Braun, who has represented celebrities like Robert Blake and Steven Seagal, tells PEOPLE. “She left the body there for them to pick it up.”
But no one ever picked him up. When Nebron returned home and found the body, she immediately called her lawyer. Braun then called the cops to report the body and the cache of weapons.
The Mystery Deepens
In another strange twist, the friend who was with Nebron and Lash when he died is now missing. Laura VadBunker tells PEOPLE that her 39-year-old daughter Dawn was last seen on the same day as Lash’s death.
VadBunker says that she believes her daughter may have had a mental breakdown after Lash died. She says Dawn and Negron believed that Lash was a secret operative whose mission was to save the world. “I was told he was half alien and half man and came from a different planet,” she says. “It is just so out of this world.”
VadBunker says she was also told that Lash had been reincarnated numerous times, and at one point was George Washington.
VadBunker says she met Lash, who she knew as “Bob Smith,” twice in the last six weeks when her daughter asked her if she could perform Reiki, or palm healing, on him. They met at the Bristol Farms in Santa Monica. She said she was first told a CIA operative poisoned him and later that he had a brain infection.
“I did two sessions and wouldn’t go back,” she says. “I was told we were being watched all the time and no one can harm him. The man was very, very ill. I never met a man who wasn’t dead in that condition.”
Who Is Jeff Lash?
So far, little is known about Lash or Bob Smith. Shirley Anderson, the longtime girlfriend of Lash’s late father, says he studied science at UCLA when he was younger but dropped out. She saw him occasionally over the years when he popped by his father’s house.
“When we saw him he was perfectly normal,” she says. “He would stop by and we would invite him to dinner and if he could make it he would stay but it was rare.”
The last time she saw him was in 2010 when his father was dying. She hadn’t heard anything more about him until the coroner contacted her last week.
“We were not privy to any of his friends,” she says. “We never knew where he lived. We didn’t know he had a fiancée. He didn’t want us talking on the phone because he didn’t want to put us in harms way. I don’t know if it was the truth or he just didn’t want to keep in touch.”
A Secret Cache of Weapons
Inside Lash’s town house, LAPD investigators discovered a huge arsenal of weapons including handguns, shotguns and rifles. According to The Los Angeles Times, Lash was a gun collector and there was no evidence he sold the weapons.
“He must have been ordering stuff for years,” says Braun. “We are talking about $5 million dollars worth of guns. There was $230,000 in cash found.”
Lash’s official cause of death is still unclear. Los Angeles County Coroner Assistant Chief Ed Winter tells PEOPLE that an autopsy was completed but a cause of death has yet to be determined. The case has been deferred pending toxicology.
The Los Angeles Police Department says the investigation is ongoing. “At this point we are treating it as an unknown reason for death until the coroner tells us the cause,” Officer Liliana Preciado tells PEOPLE. “We don’t know the cause at this point.”
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