Five days after the release of the videos, the hotel began to investigate guest complaints of low water pressure and an odd taste in the water supply, and maintenance workers located a body, later identified as that of Elisa Lam, in one of four large water tanks on the roof of the Hotel Cecil. The next day, public health officials issued a “do not drink” advisory to hotel guests pending testing of the water to determine whether it was safe to use.
In June 2013, Lt. Fred Corral of the Los Angeles County coroner’s office investigations division confirmed Elisa Lam’s cause of death was accidental, with bipolar disorder as a significant condition. The location of Lam’s body (inside a hard-to-access water tank) and her odd behavior were among mysteries not resolved when the forensic investigation was completed:
Those test results were initially expected to take six to eight weeks to complete, but coroner’s spokesman Ed Winter said in response to queries that the office was still awaiting complete testing results.
Corral said no other information on the cause of death or condition of the woman’s body was being released.
Authorities including police and the coroner have not stated how they believe Lam got into the tank. Law enforcement officials had been careful to say that the death could be accidental, despite widespread public suspicions of foul play.
In the time since Elisa Lam’s mysterious death, the enduring questions she left behind have been the source of speculation. Adding to the uneasiness many have about Lam’s demise is the checkered history of the Hotel Cecil, where a woman leapt to her death from the roof in the 1960s and serial killer Richard Ramirez (the “Night Stalker”) lived for a time in the
One of the aspects of the Elisa Lam’s disappearance and death that has fed continuing interest in the case is its trajectory and unresolved aspects. Given that Lam was initially one of a number of missing students at the time, her disappearance didn’t draw much attention until the release of surveillance video by the LAPD in February 2013. Even then, it wasn’t until the unusual circumstances of her death by drowning were revealed that media interest in Lam’s case surged. Contrary to later retellings, Lam’s death made headlines both locally and internationally.
Another matter of interest to the public was that even police were stumped as to how Lam’s body came to end up in a water tank that is difficult to access. Foul play was initially investigated as a possibility, but the coroner’s office ruled Lam’s death to be an accidental one:
The mysterious death of the young woman whose body was found in a water tank on the roof of a cheap downtown hotel has been ruled accidental.
The Los Angeles County coroner’s office issued the ruling in the case of Elisa Lam, Lt. Fred Corral of the coroner’s investigations division said.
The cause of death was listed as accidental due to drowning, with bipolar disorder listed as a significant condition, he said.
Baker, Paula. “Timeline: The Mysterious Disappearance of Elisa Lam.”
GlobalNews.ca. 20 February 2013.
Welch, William M. “Elisa Lam’s Death Ruled Accidental.”
USA Today. 21 June 2013.
Wintonyk, Darcy. “Was Elisa Lam Murdered or the Victim of a Strange Accident?”
CTV News Vancouver. 20 February 2013.