Body found in water tank of Los Angeles hotel is missing tourist
The body of missing 21-year-old Canadian tourist Elisa Lam was discovered in a water tank atop the Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles. NBCNews.com's Dara Brown reports.
By Melissa Pamer and Lolita Lopez, NBCLosAngeles.com
The body of a woman recovered Tuesday from a water tank on the roof of a downtown Los Angeles hotel is that of 21-year-old Elisa Lam, a Canadian tourist who stayed at the hotel before she disappeared several weeks ago, police officials said late Tuesday.
At about 10:15 a.m., police were called to the Cecil Hotel. The Los Angeles Fire Department also responded. The body was removed at about 4:30 p.m. after an urban search and rescue team worked to free the remains while trying to maintain evidence, authorities on scene said.
Hotel guests had reported that the water pressure in the building was low, prompting a maintenance worker to visit tanks on the roof, where the body was found, according to Los Angeles Police Department Officer Sara Fayden. Officials were gathered on the hotel's roof at midday, and multiple emergency vehicles were parked in front of the building, including a sedan from the county coroner's officer.
LAPD homicide detectives had been investigating the disappearance of Lam, a Vancouver, B.C., resident who had stayed at the hotel during a visit to Southern California last month.
Surveillance video from the hotel had shown Lam in the hotel's elevator on Feb. 1. She seemed to push multiple buttons in the elevator, then stepped in and out and appeared to hide in a corner in what authorities described as "abnormal" behavior.
The surveillance video is the last known image of Lam, whose parents said she had called them every day until she disappeared, according to police.
Lam had stayed at the Cecil Hotel during a visit to LA that began Jan. 26, but when it came time for her to check out, she could not be found. She was last seen Jan. 31.
LAPD via Reuters Elisa Lam of Vancouver, British Columbia, is seen in this undated handout photo provided by the Los Angeles Police Department.
The water tank was about three-quarters full when the body was found, according the Sgt. Rudy Lopez of the LAPD. He said the tank's metal latch could be easily opened but added that access to the hotel's roof is secured with an alarm and lock.
A spokesman for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said the agency was investigating the four 4-foot-by-8-foot water tanks to determine whether the hotel's water supply had been contaminated.
Fire Capt. Jaime Moore said a water sample had shown "no biohazard concerns" and that the hotel's water tanks were not connected.
Longtime hotel resident Bernard Diaz reported flooding on the fourth floor at about the time Lam disappeared, saying he heard a thump so loud one night he "fell out of bed."
The building, located near Skid Row, is described on its website as a "beautiful vintage European-style hotel built in the 1920s."
The single-room-occupancy hotel has an unusual history. "Night Stalker" Richard Ramirez, who was found guilty of 14 slayings in the 1980s, lived on the 14th floor for several months in 1985. And international serial killer Jack Unterweger is suspected of murdering three prostitutes during the time he lived there in 1991. He killed himself in jail in 1994.
In 1962, a female occupant jumped out of one the hotel's windows, killing herself and a pedestrian on whom she landed.