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Missing Canadian Tourist Found Dead

lam-picThe body of missing Canadian tourist Elisa Lam, 21, was found in rooftop water tank at the Cecil Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.

Lam had last been seen at the hotel on Jan. 31. Police are trying to determine if foul play was involved in her death.

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LOS ANGELES (KTLA) — Guests who were staying at the Cecil Hotel when the body of a Canadian tourist was found in a water tank have filed a lawsuit against the hotel.

cecil-hotelThe suit was filed earlier this week in Los Angeles Superior Court by Steven and Gloria Cott.

They were staying at the hotel when the body of 21-year-old Elisa Lam was found inside a water tank on the roof on Feb. 19.

Lam, who authorities said traveled to California from Vancouver on Jan. 26, was last seen Jan. 31 at the hotel.

A cause of death is still pending. The coroner’s office is waiting for the results of toxicology tests, which will take six to eight weeks.

Extensive testing was done by the L.A. County Department of Public Health on the water and the hotel, and officials say it did not contain harmful bacteria.

They said the chance of disease-causing bacteria surviving was “very unlikely” because of the chlorine in the water.

elisa-lam-bodyLOS ANGELES (CNN) — The Cecil Hotel’s dark past earned it a spot on Los Angeles tours long before a woman’s body was found inside its rooftop water tank.

“It’s the place where serial killers stay,” said tour guide Richard Schave.

Schave and his wife, Kim Cooper, conduct a “true crime and oddities” tour they call “Hotel Horrors & Main Street Vice.”

The new mystery surrounding Elisa Lam’s death will be added to Cooper’s spiel during the tour stops at the Cecil Hotel, she said.

Cooper and Schave have made it their job to compile details on those who have killed or been killed while staying at the Cecil.

The killers

The most famous on their list are serial killers Richard Ramirez and Jack Unterweger.

Ramirez, known as the “Nightstalker,” now resides on California’s death row, but in 1985 he was living on the Cecil’s top floor in a $14 a night room, Cooper said.

The Cecil, filled then with hundreds of transients living in the cheap rooms, was a good place for Ramirez to go unnoticed as he killed 13 women, Schave said. He was “just dumping his bloody clothes in the Dumpster at the end of his evening and going in the back entrance.”

Jack Unterweger worked as a journalist covering Los Angeles crime for an Austrian magazine in 1991 when he moved into the Cecil.

“We believe he was living at the Cecil in homage to Ramirez,” Schave said.

He is blamed with killing three prostitutes in Los Angeles while a guest at the Cecil.

The killed

During the 1950s and 1960s, the Cecil had a reputation as a place where people would kill themselves by jumping out upper-floor windows, Cooper said. “It’s just what people do when they are at the end of their rope,” she said.

Helen Gurnee, in her 50s, leaped from a seventh floor window, landing on the Cecil Hotel marquee on October 22, 1954, Cooper said.

Julia Moore jumped from her eighth floor room window on February 11, 1962, she said. Moore left behind a bus ticket from St Louis, 59 cents and an Illinois bank account book showing a balance of $1,800.

Pauline Otton, 27, jumped from a ninth floor window after an argument with her estranged husband on October 12, 1962, Cooper said. Otton landed on George Gianinni, 65, who was walking on the sidewalk 90 feet below. Both were killed instantly.

Not everyone on Cooper’s list committed suicide.

“Pigeon Goldie” Osgood, a retired telephone operator, was found dead in her ransacked room on June 4, 1964, Cooper said. Osgood, known for protecting and feeding the pigeons at nearby Pershing Square, was stabbed, strangled and raped. The crime has not been solved.

Not an ordinary hotel

Schave and Cooper have theories about why the Cecil’s past has been so sordid.

It was built in the 1920s as a hotel “for businessmen to come into town and spend a night or two,” Cooper said.

But it was soon upstaged by nicer hotels in a better part of town, she said. When the Great Depression hit in the 1930s, it became more of a transient hotel. Eventually, it transitioned into a single room occupancy business, known as an SRO. Long-term tenants rented individual rooms and shared bathrooms with neighboring residents.

“This was just a place where people who were really down on their luck were going,” Schave said. “These hotels are filled with people who are at the edge of being integrated in society.”

During the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, hundreds of people who were “down on their luck” called the Cecil home, he said. “They were all hustling to make ends meet.”

“It’s not like that any more, of course,” Cooper said.

New owners converted three of the floors back to hotel rooms around 2007, but most of the building remains SRO, Schave said.

Another section serves as a hostel that is marketed toward European tourists, he said

It was not clear if Lam was staying in one of the hotel rooms, which offer more privacy, or the hostel.

LOS ANGELES (KTLA) — More testing is need to determine the cause of death of a 21-year-old Canadian tourist whose body was found in a water tank atop a downtown hotel.

Los Angeles County coroner’s spokesman Ed Winter said on Thursday that the autopsy on Elisa Lam was completed.

He would not say whether the medical examination found visible signs of trauma on the body.

Winter said that toxicology tests will determine if Lam was taking medication or another substance at the time of her death, and, if so, whether it was at therapeutic levels. He did not elaborate.

He also would not comment on whether coroner’s investigators had determined how Lam got into the water tank or how long she had been there.

Lam’s body was found on Tuesday in a water cistern at the Cecil Hotel by a maintenance worker who was checking out complaints about low water pressure.

elisa-lam-bodyWater tested from the hotel didn’t contain any live bacteria that would cause illness, the L.A. County Health Department said Thursday.

A do-not-drink order implemented Tuesday was expected to be in place through the weekend until officials determine the water is suitable for drinking.

Officials tested for disease-causing coliforms at different places inside the 15-story hotel.

“The tests came back negative, meaning that if they were in the water they are no longer viable,” said Angelo Bellomo, director of environmental health.

Chlorine in the water likely killed any bacteria in the tank where Lam’s body was found, Bellomo said.

The Cecil Hotel is expected to drain and flush its tanks and water lines before sanitizing them, which could take two or three days.

The Department of Public Health will then conduct another series of tests before deeming the water safe to drink.

Lam traveled to California from Vancouver on Jan. 26, and she was last seen at the hotel on Jan. 31.

Surveillance video from that day shows Lam inside an elevator. She presses the buttons for multiple floors, and at one point gets out and is waving her arms.

It’s not known why Lam was visiting California, but it’s believed that her final destination was Santa Cruz.

LAPD homicide detectives are now trying to determine whether foul play was involved in Lam’s death or if it might have been an accident.

Police said they searched the hotel with dogs when Lam went missing, but they didn’t know if the tanks were examined.

The only ways to get to the roof are via a locked door that only employees have access to and a fire escape.

Police said that the door has an alarm system that notifies the hotel if someone is on the roof.

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.

LOS ANGELES (KTLA) — Los Angeles police have released troubling new video of missing Canadian tourist Elisa Lam.

lam-picThe January 31 video shows Lam entering an elevator at the Cecil Hotel in downtown L.A., where she was staying.

She then pushes buttons for several floors.

A little later, she appears to be either looking for or hiding from someone, and at one point she exits the elevator and starts making strange hand gestures.

Lam arrived in Los Angeles from British Columbia on Jan. 26.

Family members say she was traveling alone.

The 21-year-old is of Chinese descent, with black hair, brown eyes.

She is 5 feet 4 inches tall, weighing approximately 115 pounds. She speaks fluent English and Cantonese.

If you have seen her, or if you have any information about the case, you’re asked to call the LAPD.

LOS ANGELES (KTLA) — Detectives are asking for the public’s help in their search for a 21-year-old Canadian tourist who vanished from a downtown hotel under what they believe to be suspicious circumstances.

Elisa-LamElisa Lam of Vancouver, British Columbia arrived in Los Angeles nearly two weeks ago on January 26.

She was last seen on January 31 in the lobby of The Cecil Hotel on 640 S. Main Street where he was staying.

She was reportedly due to check out the following day.

Lam was traveling alone, but had been in contact with her parents daily until her disappearance.

Records show the college student spent a few days in San Diego before coming to L.A..

Lam traveled by public transportation like Amtrak and local buses. Her final destination was apparently in Santa Cruz, California.

The LAPD said in a news release that details in the case “may suggest foul play.”

Lam is described as an Asian woman of Chinese descent. She has black hair, brown eyes and stands 5 feet 4 inches tall.  She weighs about 115 pounds.

Lam is fluent in English and also speaks Cantonese.

The FBI and LAPD are asking anyone with information in the case to contact them.