More than 3,650,000 pageviews from 150 countries


Monday, May 29, 2017

Elisa Lam's Mysterious and Suspicious Death

     The Cecil Hotel, a downtown, 600-room, fourteen-story building at 7th and Main near Los Angeles' Skid Row district, could be a setting in a southern California noir film. (I'm thinking of the hotel in the movie "Barton Fink.") In the 1920s and 30s several guests and visitors were murdered in the place. A woman jumped to her death from a hotel window in the 1960s. In 1985, Richard Ramirez, "The Night Stalker," occasionally roomed on the fourteenth floor. The hotel put the serial killer in proximity to prostitutes, fourteen of whom ended up dead by his hand. In 1991, during Jack Unterweger's stay at the hotel, the Austrian murdered several of the neighborhood's working girls. The Cecil's new owners made improvements to the 2-star budget hotel in 2007. Half of the hotel's inhabitants are permanent residents.

     On January 26, 2013, Elisa Lam, a 21-year-old University of British Columbia student from Vancouver, Canada, checked into the Cecil Hotel. During the first five days of her vacation to Los Angeles, Elisa called her parents regularly. She stopped phoning on January 31, and the next day her worried parents, the owners of a vancouver restaurant, reported their daughter missing to the Los Angeles Police Department. 
     Police officers searched the hotel without result. In reviewing surveillance camera footage, detectives came across a two-minute clip of the missing woman standing by herself in a hotel elevator. Lam was seen pushing all of the floor-buttons, obviously frustrated that the elevator door didn't close. For a minute or so she seemed to be hiding in the corner of the elevator before stepping out into the lobby or a hallway. She was seen just outside the elevator gesturing as though she was talking to someone off-camera. 
     On Tuesday morning, February 19, 2013, a maintenance worker on the hotel roof investigating complaints of low water pressure, made a terrible discovery. To his horror he found a young woman's body in one of the four cylindrical tanks that provide the hotel's water. The corpse had been floating in the cistern for two and a half weeks. As suspected, the maintenance man had found Elisa Lam.  
     Guests at the Cecil Hotel had been drinking, brushing their teeth, and showering in water contaminated by a decomposing corpse. During the week before the maintenance man's roof-top discovery, there had been customer complaints of funny tasting drinking water, and showers that started off with a black spray. 
     The Cecil Hotel has remained open, but has been placed on "flush only" status by the Los Angeles County Health Department. (Following the discovery of the body, the city added more chorine to the hotel's drinking water.) After the recovery of Lam's remains, guests checking into the $64 a night hotel were required to sign waivers warning them they were staying at the Cecil "at their own risk and peril." (People were still checking-in?) 
     Los Angeles detectives were treating the case as a suspicious death, but did not determined what happened to Lisa Lam, or how her body ended up in the hotel water supply. (I presume there was no evidence of foul play in her room.) To get to the hotel roof, one had to have access to a locked and alarmed door. The only other way to the top of the building involved climbing the fire escape. 
     According to her parents, Elisa's travel plans had included a trip to Santa Cruz in the central part of the state. There have been no reports regarding why Santa Cruz was on her vacation itinerary. A few news sources have indicated that the young woman might have been "mildly depressed".

     On February 29, a spokesperson for the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner's office announced that the autopsy did not reveal Elisa Lam's specific cause of death. (This means she hadn't been shot, bludgeoned, stabbed or knifed. That left strangulation, smothering, or drowning. Apparently the forensic pathologist was unable to determine if she had been dead or alive when she went into the water.)

     Toxicological tests determined that Lam had not recently consumed alcohol or recreational drugs. In her system she did have antidepressant medication prescribed to manage her depression and bipolar disorder.

     The spokesperson said that while foul play was a possibility, Lam's death was probably an accident. (An accident? How did a hotel guest accidentally end up in a roof-top water tank? What was she doing on the roof? What was she doing in the tank?)

     The Los Angeles County Medical Examiner's office announced, on June 20, 2013, that Elisa Lam's death had been an accident. Really? How does one accidentally drown in a roof-top water tank? Did a witness see Lam on the hotel roof? Was she swimming in the tank? This ruling doesn't make any sense. 

No comments:

Post a Comment