Overview of Elisa Lam
Elisa Lam, a caring and kind student at the University of British Columbia goes missing before her body is found in a water tank over two weeks later.
Elisa was traveling on her own along the coast of California. Her exact itinerary for the trip is unclear, but she had already been to San Diego and had plans to end the trip in Santa Cruz. However, she would not get further than Los Angeles.
Elisa checked into the Stay on Main hotel in Los Angeles on January 26th, 2013. The hotel had been partially converted from the infamous Cecil Hotel. The Stay on Main had its own lobby, but shared elevators and other amenities with the Cecil Hotel.
Originally, Elisa was staying in a shared room with other women, but she was moved into a single room after complaints about her behavior.
Elisa was last seen by the manager of The Last Bookstore and hotel staff on January 31st, 2013. Elisa had previously been contacting her parents everyday, however, her parents became concerned as they had not heard from Elisa that night.
Elisa is reported missing after her parents reached out to LAPD and the hotel staff noticed she failed to check out and all of her belongings remained in her room.
An extensive search of the hotel resulted in zero leads. Police officers brought in dogs to look for Elisa's sent but were unsuccessful in finding her.
On January 13th, 2013 police released the last known footage of Elisa in the hotel's elevator. The elevator footage shows Elisa behaving oddly, jumping in and out of it, and appearing as though she is hiding from someone off frame. At one point it appears as though she is communicating with someone off screen. The footage ends with Elisa walking out of and away from the elevator.
On January 19th, 2013 a hotel maintenance worker was sent to the roof to investigate the water tanks following complaints about water pressure and water quality. When he climbed on to the top of the water tanks, he found one already had its lid open. Upon looking inside, he found Elisa's body floating inside. She was naked, but her clothes were also inside the tank.
After Elisa's body was found, police gave no explanation as to how she may have ended up on the roof or in the tank. The roof of the hotel is restricted to employees, and there is an alarmed door leading to it. The hotel staff denied that the alarm went off at any point during Elisa's stay. The other option would be that Elisa climbed the exterior fire escape to get to the roof. After gaining access to the roof, Elisa still would have had to climb the ladder on the side of the eight-foot tall water tank and then open the 20-pound lid to the tank. Due to the location of her body, police believed foul play may have been involved.
On February 21st, 2013 the initial autopsy report is released, but a cause or manner of death were not released at this time as they needed to wait for further testing to be completed.
On June 20th, 2013 the final autopsy report is released and Elisa's death is ruled to be an accidental drowning. The medical examiner stated that her previously diagnosed bipolar disorder was a major factor in her death, as test results revealed that she was either not taking her medication or not taking enough of it in the days leading up to her death. There was no apparent trauma to her body and no substances that could be associated with her death. Police believe that Elisa ended up on the roof of the hotel on her own and either jumped into the water tank and had no way of getting out or she fell into the tank by accident.
Elisa's family sued the hotel for negligence in their daughter's death, but a judge ruled that Elisa getting into the water tanks was an unforeseeable accident.
Today, Elisa's case is closed and considered by police to be an accidental death. Elisa's death has been the topic of many conspiracy theories involving foul play or the supernatural. The popularity of her case is heavily associated with the release of the elevator video. While the theories can help to explain some of the loose ends in her case, at the heart of this case is a woman who tragically lost her life and a family who lost their daughter. What began as an adventure for a young woman ended in a tragic accident.