The body of missing actress Naya Rivera was found floating in Lake Piru on Monday morning, days after she went missing during a boating trip with her young son and was presumed dead, Ventura County officials said.
“We are confident the body we found is that of Naya Rivera,” Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub said, delivering the grim news at an afternoon news briefing.
Authorities concluded the 33-year-old’s remains had been discovered based on the location, clothing, physical characteristics and the physical condition of the body, as well as an absence of any other missing persons reports in the area, according to the sheriff.
Dental records will be used to make a positive identification, he said.
Detectives have found no immediate indication of foul play or suicide, according to Ayub. An autopsy will be conducted to determine a cause of death.
“As you can imagine, it’s been an extremely difficult time for her family throughout this ordeal. As fathers, mothers, sons and daughters, our hearts are with them, and we share their grief for Naya’s loss,” the sheriff said.
Crews from multiple agencies had conducted an exhaustive search of the water since the “Glee” star disappeared in the lake northwest of Los Angeles last Wednesday.
Rivera and her 4-year-old son left the dock around 1 p.m. that day after she rented a pontoon boat. The pair headed toward the northern portion of the lake, and officials were able to identify the specific areas the mother and son visited based on shoreline features that were in the background of FaceTime videos from when Rivera chatted with relatives, Ayub said.
At some point, the two went out on the lake for a swim.
“It was during that time that her son described being helped into the boat by Naya, who boosted him onto the deck from behind,” the sheriff said. “He told investigators he looked back and saw her disappear under the surface of the water.”
The little boy was later found asleep and alone on the boat by a leasing agent after the vessel failed to return following the three-hour rental period, officials said.
He was wearing a life vest and wrapped in a towel. An adult size life vest was discovered on the boat.
The Sheriff’s Office was first called out to the lake shortly after 4:30 p.m., and rangers at the lake immediately began searching the area for the missing mother. Deputies arrived a short time later, as did a boat crew with divers and a helicopter to conduct an aerial search.
They were unable to find Rivera.
Later that evening, the Sheriff’s Office announced that Rivera had been presumed dead, the victim of an apparent drowning that officials believed was a “tragic accident.”
The following morning, an intense search began again with more agencies joining the effort. The mode of the operation was changed to one of search and recovery later that day.
Crews returned to the lake Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but were unable to find Rivera’s body.
After an exhaustive search, her remains were finally located Monday morning during a search of the northeastern portion of the lake.
“We had boat crews on the lake at first light this morning with divers, and they discovered the body floating,” Ventura County sheriff’s Capt. Eric Buschow told KTLA shortly after the agency announced that remains had been found amid the search for Rivera.
Divers struggled with low visibility at the 2-square-mile lake, the depth of which ranged between 10 to 90 feet, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
The water in the area where the body was found is between 35 to 60 feet deep, with heavy brush and trees around that part of the lake.
“We believe she was concealed within some of the shrubbery on the floorbed,” Ayub said.
Prior to identifying the body, Buschow said the the Sheriff’s Office had notified Rivera’s family of the major development in the case.
“Hopefully this provides some closure, whatever that means, for the family,” Buschow said.
In addition to her son, Rivera is survived by her parents, and a brother and sister.
A native of Valencia, Rivera began acting at the age of 4 in the television series, “The Royal Family.” She also appeared in such hit TV shows as “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” “Family Matters” and “The Bernie Mac Show.”
But she was perhaps best known for playing cheerleader Santana Lopez in all six seasons of “Glee,” which aired from 2009 until 2015.
She’s the third star of the high school musical-comedy to die in their 30s.
Cory Monteith was 31 when he was found dead in a Vancouver hotel room on July 13, 2013, exactly seven years before Rivera’s body was discovered. Monteith died from a toxic mix of alcohol and drugs and his death was ruled an accident.
And in 2018, Rivera’s ex-boyfriend Mark Salling killed himself in Los Angeles after pleading guilty to a federal child pornography charge. The 35-year-old was found dead about a month before his scheduled sentencing.