Searching for Clues in Water Tank Death

Police still don't know how the body of missing Canadian tourist Elisa Lam wound up in a water tank at a downtown hotel

By Sharon Bernstein, Melissa Pamer and Lolita Lopez
|  Wednesday, Feb 20, 2013  |  Updated 7:57 PM PDT
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Authorities aren't yet sure if foul play was involved in the death of 21-year-old Canadian tourist Elisa Lam. However, her death is shedding new light on the Cecil Hotel, which is home to a storied, dark past. Lolita Lopez reports Downtown LA for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Feb. 20, 2013.

Lolita Lopez

Authorities aren't yet sure if foul play was involved in the death of 21-year-old Canadian tourist Elisa Lam. However, her death is shedding new light on the Cecil Hotel, which is home to a storied, dark past. Lolita Lopez reports Downtown LA for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Feb. 20, 2013.

Photos and Videos

New Clues Surface in Disappearance of Canadian Tourist

Newly released surveillance video shows Elisa Lam acting bizarrely inside an elevator at a Downtown Los Angeles hotel shortly before the 21-year-old disappeared last month. Gordon Tokumatsu reports from Downtown Los Angeles for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Feb. 14, 2013.

Missing Tourist Case Probed by LAPD Homicide

This surveillance video shows missing Canadian Elisa Lam attempting to use an elevator in the Cecil Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, police said.
More Photos and Videos

Investigators were still searching for clues on Wednesday in the death of Canadian tourist Elisa Lam, whose body was found in a water tank on the roof of a downtown Los Angeles hotel.

Lam, 21, disappeared Jan. 31, shortly after surveillance cameras at the Cecil Hotel near L.A.'s skid row caught her acting somewhat strangely in an elevator.

A cause has not yet been established in Lam's death, the Los Angeles County Coroner's office said. An autopsy on her remains was scheduled for Thursday, spokesman Ed Winter said.

Lam's body was removed from the water tank at about 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.

On Wednesday, a woman who planned to stay at the hotel was told it was closed to guests for four days. A long-term resident who lives in the single-room-occupancy hotel said he had not had water since Tuesday.

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.

Lam, who was visiting from Vancouver, British Columbia, checked into the hotel on Jan. 26. Authorities said she had made a detour to Los Angeles on her way to a visit to Santa Cruz.

In the surveillance video, Lam appeared 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.

Watch: Surveillance Video

The surveillance video is the last known image of Lam, whose parents said she had called them every day until she disappeared, police said.

The water tank was about three-quarters full when the body was found, said LAPD Sgt. Rudy Lopez.  He said the tank's metal latch could be easily opened, but 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.

The building, located near Skid Row, is described on its website as a "beautiful vintage European-style hotel built in the 1920s."

Kim Cooper, who leads bus tours of unusual and strange locations in the Los Angeles area, said the hotel has a dark, storied past.

"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.

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