Elisa Lam, the 21-year-old girl whose body was found in a Los Angeles hotel water tank, might have been in the cistern “for as long as 19 days.” According to the latest update in the Elisa Lam case, Elisa Lam’s autopsy has been completed but the cause of Elisa Lam’s death “is deferred pending further examination," said assistant chief coroner Ed Winter in a statement on Thursday.
On Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, CNN reports in an update that “The decomposing body of Elisa Lam floated inside a water tank on the roof of the Cecil Hotel while guests brushed their teeth, bathed and drank with water from it for as long as 19 days.”
On Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013, Elisa Lam’s decomposed body was found inside one of four water cisterns by a maintenance worker who was checking on complaints about the hotel’s water.
On Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013, Elisa Lam had checked into the Cecil Hotel, a 600-room hotel that charges $65 a night. According to a police report from Elisa Lam’s hometown of Vancouver in British Columbia, Elisa was staying at the hotel on her way to Santa Cruz, about 350 miles north of Los Angeles.
On Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013, Elisa Lam’s daily calls home to her parents stopped and her parents and sister flew to Los Angeles in search for her.
Between Jan. 31, 2013, to Feb. 19, 2013, there was no sign of Elisa Lam who was a student at the University of British Columbia. Police searched the hotel, including the roof, but neither police officers nor a police search dog found any clues in regard to the missing girl.
It appears that Jan. 31, 2013, is the key date to when Elisa Lam was last seen by workers at the Cecil Hotel.
On Jan. 31, 2013, Elisa Lam was also captured on a security camera inside the hotel elevator.
“She is seen walking into the elevator, pushing the buttons for four floors and then peering out of the opened elevator door as if she is hiding or looking for someone. Clad in a red hoodie, Lam at one point walks out of the elevator before returning to it, pushing the buttons again. She then stands outside the open elevator doorway, motioning with her hands, before apparently walking away.”
Adding to the mystery of Elisa Lam’s unusual behavior in the elevator is the fact that the water tank in which Elisa Lam’s decomposed body was found is about 10 feet tall, 4.5 feet wide and holds at least 1,000 gallons of water pumped up from city pipes. Elisa Lam's body was found at the bottom of the one cistern that was about three-quarters full of water, according to Los Angeles Police Sgt. Rudy Lopez.
Since the water tanks are on a platform at least 10 feet above the surface of the roof, a person would have to go to the top floor of the hotel, take the staircase to get to the roof, pass through the roof’s locked door without setting off the emergency alarm, use a ladder to get up to the 10-foot-high platform on which the water tanks are located, and then again use the ladder to climb up the side of the 10-foot-high water tank.
Because of the unlikely chance that anyone would even go to the top of the roof, there are no security cameras installed.
Based on the information available as of Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, Los Angeles robbery-homicide detectives are treating Elisa Lam’s death as a suspicious death.
The only reason why Elisa Lam’s body was found was because hotel guests noticed strange things happening with the hotel’s water supply including decreased water pressure, shower water that started out as black water, and tap water that “tasted horrible" and “had a very funny, sweety, disgusting taste.”
“Several guests interviewed by CNN on Wednesday indicated the hotel management did not tell them about the body in the water supply they had been drinking and bathing in.”
By noon Wednesday, the Cecil Hotel relocated 27 rooms used by guests to another hotel, but 11 rooms remained filled. Guests who chose to remain in the hotel are required to sign a waiver in which they acknowledge having been informed of the health risks and were being provided bottled water.
While the coroner’s report continues with a toxicology test (which may take six to eight weeks) and investigators continue their search for clues in regard to the mystery surrounding Elisa Lam’s death, the hotel continues its business – almost as usual.
According to a 10News report on Feb. 21, 2013,
“The Cecil Hotel was built in the 1920s and refurbished several years ago. The hotel is on Main Street in a part of downtown where efforts at gentrification often conflicts with homelessness and crime. It had once been the occasional home of infamous serial killers such as Richard Ramirez, known as the Night Stalker, and Austrian prison author Jack Unterweger, who was convicted of murdering nine prostitutes in Europe and the U.S.”