Body of Missing Tourist Found in Hotel Water Tank

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LOS ANGELES — Police say that a body discovered inside a rooftop water tank at the Cecil Hotel is that of a missing Canadian tourist Elisa Lam.

Guests at the hotel in downtown Los Angeles had complained about weak water pressure, and at least one said there was flooding in a fourth-floor room.

Those complaints led a hotel maintenance worker on Tuesday to check on a large tank on the roof, where he found the body of a woman in her 20s at the bottom.

Authorities said late Tuesday that the body was that of Lam, 21, of Vancouver, Canada, who was last seen at the hotel on Jan. 31.

Police have provided few details about how the body might have ended up in the tank.

“We’re not ruling out foul play,” said LAPD Sgt. Rudy Lopez, noting that the location of the remains “makes it suspicious.”

A cause of death is still to be determined by county coroner’s officials, Lopez said.

Police searched the roof of the Cecil with the aid of dogs when Lam was reported missing about three weeks ago. Lopez said he didn’t know if the tanks were examined.

“We did a very thorough search of the hotel,” he said. “But we didn’t search every room; we could only do that if we had probable cause” that a crime had been committed.

According to detectives, Lam arrived in Los Angeles on Jan. 26.

She was traveling alone, but had been in contact with her parents daily before her disappearance.

It’s believed that her final destination was Santa Cruz, but her reasons for visiting California were unclear.

Lam was last seen inside the elevator of the hotel. Surveillance video shows her pushing buttons for multiple floors.

At one point, she steps out of the elevator and waves her arms. Police said taht a locked door that only employees have access to and a fire escape are the only ways to get on the roof.

The door is equipped with an alarm system that would notify the hotel that someone was up there, Lopez said.

Guests at the hotel were understandably shaken following the grim discovery.

Fire department officials said the tank where the body was found supplied the rooms with water for showers and sinks, as well as being used to clean the hotel’s linens.

The Department of Public Health took a water sample Tuesday and determined there was no biohazard.

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  • bender719

    "The location is being treated as a crime scene but sources familiar with the case said it was too early to tell whether Lam was the victim of foul play."……really?

    Does anyone think that she just crawled into a water tank on the hotel roof and died? COME ON PEOPLE – of course it's foul play!!!!

    • Bob

      Did you see the video of her acting very "spacey" in the hotel? The woman may have had something a little "off" in her. She may have crawled into the tank on her own accord. from the picture it does not look like it would be very easy to haul a body up the side of a six foot high tank, although it is possible I guess that she tried to hide on top of the tank and was pushed in.

      • Derek

        I agree with you, Bob. I challenge anyone to carry someone weighing maybe 110-120 lbs up a ladder for about 6-10 feet without dropping them several times, and/or falling off the ladder yourself. It's not impossible, but it would be extremely difficult.

        When I first saw the video it seemed pretty clear this girl was acting strangely, and I suspect she had a psychotic break. Either that, or she was on drugs. In any case, I think she crawled up there herself and went for a swim.

    • Nightmare

      Someone one day woke up and realized that you could profit from stupidity, thus, people started to defend stupidity, now the stupid rule the world.

    • Leah

      I didn't see it in this article, but the latches on the tanks themselves don't have locks. However, there is no way onto the roof without sounding the fire escape alarm, or a key.

      • actionjackson

        That is why I cannot fathom why the Cecil has not announced anything publically.

        I actually was amazed to read that the Cecil is actually a psuedo half-way house.

        Their website makes the hotel look better than it really is.

  • Anonymous

    really? too early to determine if foul play is involved? yeah right. pretty obvious this small girl didn't become Spidey and crawl to the top of the water tank and throw herself in there. They never did release more info on the elevator video. It looks like she is either on something or hiding from someone who may have been following her. I think she was trying to hide from someone and also may be a little mentally unstable which may have made her an easy target to be victimized. Def. check any employees or anyone who would have knowledge about the hotel's roof access and disposing a body into the water tank!

    • Gan

      I agree. Did you see the full video? The elevator door wouldn't close after almost 2 minutes, and it was clear she was trying to get off that floor by pushing all the other floor buttons. Only a maintenance man can keep the elevator open like that for when they move furniture and equipment.

  • vall

    Why are people doing such horrible things? Don't they have better things to do than committing crimes? Another victim, another statistic. When will all this end? I hope justice is served for the poor tourist. No one deserves to end like that.

  • Trish in Hemet

    Think of all the people just brushing their teeth. I wouldn't drink the water but how often do you use bottled water for brushing teeth!!

  • actionjackson

    this will put some pretty good (bad) publicity for the hotel. main. st. in la is pretty rough to begin with. imagine any potential guest seeing the video of the victim in the hotel, no one around, and non-working elevator. recommend is to pay a little more, and stay in a hotel in a nicer area of los angeles.

  • Pasha

    "The location is being treated as a crime scene but sources familiar with the case said it was too early to tell whether Lam was the victim of foul play," What?! Yeah, I'm sure she was sight seeing in the "Water Tank"…

  • actionjackson

    Total agreement with u Pasha.

    This part of LA is close to SKID ROW, or a lot of homeless, and not so nice areas.
    Main St. is almost a ghost town around the area, at night (or late hours).
    Not a nice area for a tourist to wander, if u do not know the area.

    • Deelite

      Usually the homeless are not involved in this type of stuff. Usually it's clean cut, White, suburban guys that do stuff like this.

      • actionjackson


        I am referring to the area where the hotel is located.
        It is called the skid row area: I think the areas
        on South Los Angeles Street is not at all.

        I am not a criminologist.
        Just fascinated with the story.

        I personally would not stay in
        a hotel in this type of location.

  • Lana

    This is so very sad. A young lady out to see California. What worries me these days is young women should do some research as to the hotels they plan on staying in. Dont stay in cheap ones with bad reputations. Also, LA doesnt have the best reputation anymore so girls,,carry a bottle of mace or bear spray. Otherwise you wont come out alive if a bad guy gets his hands on you. This is proof!!!! She has had her life snuffed out at such a tender age and, Lord, think of how her parents will be over this.
    Their lives will never be the same….ladies,,,always be on top of the WHAT IFS….you have to plan on protecting yourself. Prayers to her family….

  • Deelite

    I'm going to play detective here. The person that killed this young woman must work in the hotel, because they knew about the water tanks and how to access them. Odds are that if the murderer was a guest in the hotel they would have stuck her body in an area that was accessible to the public. The water tanks seem to be quite out of the way. I don't think it would have been a homeless resident from that area. They would have triggered red flags by their appearance. I'm sure that the hotel keeps the homeless out of lobby. Hope that the trail is not cold for the investigators. BTW – I am so grossed out by the idea of bathing or washing in the hotel water. Ewww.

    • Derek

      Do you really think it would be easy to haul her dead body (weighing up to maybe 120 lbs) up a ladder and then stuff it inside one of those tanks? Think about it for a minute — it would be pretty damn hard for any one to haul that much dead weight up a ladder. Why not just toss her body off the roof and make it look like suicide?

      The video showed this chick acting strangely. She was either high on drugs or had some sort of psychotic break with reality, and crawled in there herself in her mania.

  • actionjackson

    look at the picture of the hotel.
    it does border skid row, and the not so nice downtown area of la.

    Quality Poor to fair
    Dirty, dumpy, old, dirty carpets, hot water took ten minutes to arrive, next to dangerous streets, lots of sirens, was Advised by locals not to be out after dark, our stray further than one block in a particular direction.
    This was a review of the hotel.

  • anne hung

    I work in this area for 14 years. I won't be caught dead at night here let alone stay in one of these hotels. Single women are harrassed all the tie with no one to complain to. Owners and seurity personnel are useless. This is still skid row. Visit in the daytime, don't stay when it becomes dark.

  • actionjackson


    I would have to agree with you on this hotel and area.
    When I saw the exterior of the cecil from main st,
    I thought it was a homeless shelter.
    Hotel really looks unmaintained from exterior.
    I think South Los Angeles Street around 6th and 7th is a really rough section
    (which might be an area of dealers).

    • actionjackson

      In looking over other replies, and that South Los Angeles St. is a
      dealer area: your reply almost makes a lot of sense.

      I know that I would stay in a more touristy area of LA.
      Thus, it makes you wonder why someone would stay
      in the downtown core.

      From my experience in LA, I would not go to these
      areas at all.

  • USAGuest

    So very prayers for comfort and peace to her family and friends.

    Whoever did this may they rot in their living existence and afterlife.

    Regardless of why you killed this woman you are a coward and a very sick individual in need of serious mental help in a nice controlled environment in hospital undergoing 5150 evaluation.

      • actionjackson

        White power does make a good point.
        Look up the items on wikipedia.
        If u r a tourist in LA, stay in the
        many tourist-centered areas.

        I personally would not stay in the downtown core.

  • Indy

    I heard stories of haunted Downtown buildings…specially on 5th nd Spring St. Video of her going up elevator is super freaky :/ May her soul rest in peace and justice for all.

    • actionjackson

      Probably not haunted Downtown buildings.

      Another poster mentioned individual under non-medical influence in the video.
      It is a possibility. She did look pretty spaced out.

      Three things that does not make sense.
      1) Is the roof accessible to all guests in the hotel?
      2) Why is the elevator in service mode?
      3) Cecil does not have a good internet writeup.
      Everyone, nowadays, read internet postings to
      get an informal review of services/products.
      Internet postings do not present a favorable
      light to the hotel atmosphere, and the
      hotel location.

      Hope answers can alleviate the strain being
      felt by the ladies family and friends.

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