The Mysterious Case Of Elisa Lam

Dr_Baltar

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...but the tanks themselves were difficult to climb up to and very difficult to close. The lids were heavy. Getting purchase on them one floating in water inside the tank would have been very difficult.
The official story has the hatch open when the maintenance man found the body. The cover was apparently not hinged, and was sitting on the top of the tank, off to the side.
So, which is it, closed or open? There are gaps in the story, but they appear to be gaps in the retelling, not necessarily in the investigation itself.
 

EnolaGaia

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There's a timeline issue that no one seems to mention in the popular accounts ...

First - some background to set the context ...

Lam was emailing her parents daily. Absent any mention of alternative access, I presume she was doing so using her mobile phone via wi-fi. Phrased another way - her cellphone was her primary communications 'lifeline' back home.

Her mobile phone was not found with her or among her effects.

It was Elisa's failure to send the expected email on 31 January (the day she had planned to check out of the Cecil Hotel and proceed to Santa Cruz) that caused her parents to contact the LAPD.

This would mean January 30 was the last day Elisa was demonstrably in possession of her phone.

I've never seen nor located any indication of when during the day / evening she sent her last email on January 30.

Most of the all-too-many cursory / embellished retellings of her story blur any distinction between the date she was last seen by hotel staff and the woman at the nearby bookstore (January 31) and the date of the elevator CCTV recording.

According to the investigative section of her autopsy report, that video was recorded on February 1.

At face value, these facts support the following points:

- Lam's phone could have been lost, tossed, stolen, etc., as early as January 30 (depending on when the last email was transmitted).

- Lam's seemingly normal, if not outright upbeat, demeanor reported for January 31 doesn't contradict the strange behavior evidenced by the video (at any speed, by the way ... ) because ...

- The strange behavior videotaped at the elevator is documented as having occurred a day later.

- If the February 1 CCTV videotape date is correct, this means Lam was still in the hotel a full day later than her planned departure on January 31. This implies something happened to make her stay over, she'd unilaterally trashed her originally planned itinerary, or she was at a loss owing to psychological or cognitive deficit.

It seems odd to me that the hotel staff are never mentioned as having followed up with Lam when she didn't check out on January 31. I don't know whether this would have been normal (lack of ...? ) procedure, given that she was staying in the hostel section of the hotel on the lowermost floors.
 

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So, which is it, closed or open? There are gaps in the story, but they appear to be gaps in the retelling, not necessarily in the investigation itself.
Good question. There are serious problems with either version. There is very little to look at on that rooftop. If you are going to all the trouble to take a "sniffer dog" or two up there, surely someone would investigate the tanks, at least superficially. Either she was in the tank with the lid closed behind her, or the lid was off and the hatch open, or she wan't up there at all. The dogs seemed to indicate the latter.

There was a lawsuit brought by Elisa's parents, which was dismissed before it went to trial. The family sued the hotel for negligence. It came to light in the court documents that locks had by then been installed on all the tank hatches. There's a lot of interesting stuff in the "Brain Scratch" video about that. Well worth a look.

 

EnolaGaia

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As to the allegedly 'edited' videotape from the elevator ...

This isn't news. There were YouTube postings about this as early as the last half of 2013.

The purportedly missing footage is presumed on the basis of two jumps in the minute counter. Both occur after the visible scene has been stable (no motion) for a while. Both end with visible motion in-frame.

This is entirely consistent with the elevator camera being motion-activated. Motion-activation is a reasonable feature for a camera installed to monitor an elevator which is empty much, if not most, of the time.

If anyone's ever verified the elevator camera was not motion-activated, it would be news to me.
 

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CuriousIdent

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So, which is it, closed or open? There are gaps in the story, but they appear to be gaps in the retelling, not necessarily in the investigation itself.
Agreed. I was under the impression that the police has stated specifically that the lid was closed, as this was why they did not investigate the tanks during the initial Rooftop search. I'm pretty sure that the LA police were quoted on that.

If that's not the case it would make the possibility of misadventure more viable. But again, so much of this case is like this. Differing reports.
 

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As to the allegedly 'edited' videotape from the elevator ...

This isn't news. There were YouTube postings about this as early as the last half of 2013.

The purportedly missing footage is presumed on the basis of two jumps in the minute counter. Both occur after the visible scene has been stable (no motion) for a while. Both end with visible motion in-frame.

This is entirely consistent with the elevator camera being motion-activated. Motion-activation is a reasonable feature for a camera installed to monitor an elevator which is empty much, if not most, of the time.

If anyone's ever verified the elevator camera was not motion-activated, it would be news to me.
We're all just guessing from our armchairs. We don't know anything about the investigation, really. Presumably the police would have talked with the people Elisa shared the hostel room with, asked if she was seen in the company of an outsider, or was she hanging around with any employees, etc. There has to have been quite a bit of video from security cameras showing her movements. The only really significant thing the police release is an apparently seriously doctored elevator video? What the hell?
 

EnolaGaia

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Here's the toxicology section from Lam's autopsy report. The second image is of the interpretive legend for the abbreviations used. Please bear in mind that the 'ND' (Not Detected) doesn't mean a finding the substance was absolutely not in her system - it only means any amount that might have been in her samples was below the testing procedure's detection threshold.

EL-AutopsyTox-1.jpg


EL-AutopsyTox-2.jpg
 

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Here's the toxicology section from Lam's autopsy report. The second image is of the interpretive legend for the abbreviations used. Please bear in mind that the 'ND' (Not Detected) doesn't mean a finding the substance was absolutely not in her system - it only means any amount that might have been in her samples was below the testing procedure's detection threshold.

View attachment 7502

View attachment 7503
THe presence of Venlafaxine would suggest she was being treated for depression/anxiety. It is the scientific name for Effexor and it's generics such as Venlafex.
 

EnolaGaia

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Here are the excerpts from the autopsy report listing the medications found to have been in Lam's possession (presumably among her personal effects from her room):

EL-Autopsy-Meds-1.jpg


EL-Autopsy-Meds-2.jpg
 

ramonmercado

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Here are the excerpts from the autopsy report listing the medications found to have been in Lam's possession (presumably among her personal effects from her room):

View attachment 7504

View attachment 7506
225 mg of Venlafaxine per day in XL form is a relatively high dose. I speak from personal experience; I've been on that level for 12 years. Be interesting to know how long she was on that medication.
 

EnolaGaia

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THe presence of Venlafaxine would suggest she was being treated for depression/anxiety. It is the scientific name for Effexor and it's generics such as Venlafex.
It's not just a suggestion ... She had been under treatment for depression and / or bipolar disorder for some time. She was known to have been prescribed Wellbutrin, Lamictal, Seroquel, and Effexor at one time or another - 3 of which were in her possession in LA. (Lamotrigine is a later name for, or version, of the Lamictal).
 

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There's a timeline issue that no one seems to mention in the popular accounts ...

First - some background to set the context ...

Lam was emailing her parents daily. Absent any mention of alternative access, I presume she was doing so using her mobile phone via wi-fi. Phrased another way - her cellphone was her primary communications 'lifeline' back home.

Her mobile phone was not found with her or among her effects.

It was Elisa's failure to send the expected email on 31 January (the day she had planned to check out of the Cecil Hotel and proceed to Santa Cruz) that caused her parents to contact the LAPD.

This would mean January 30 was the last day Elisa was demonstrably in possession of her phone.

I've never seen nor located any indication of when during the day / evening she sent her last email on January 30.

Most of the all-too-many cursory / embellished retellings of her story blur any distinction between the date she was last seen by hotel staff and the woman at the nearby bookstore (January 31) and the date of the elevator CCTV recording.

According to the investigative section of her autopsy report, that video was recorded on February 1.

At face value, these facts support the following points:

- Lam's phone could have been lost, tossed, stolen, etc., as early as January 30 (depending on when the last email was transmitted).

- Lam's seemingly normal, if not outright upbeat, demeanor reported for January 31 doesn't contradict the strange behavior evidenced by the video (at any speed, by the way ... ) because ...

- The strange behavior videotaped at the elevator is documented as having occurred a day later.

- If the February 1 CCTV videotape date is correct, this means Lam was still in the hotel a full day later than her planned departure on January 31. This implies something happened to make her stay over, she'd unilaterally trashed her originally planned itinerary, or she was at a loss owing to psychological or cognitive deficit.

It seems odd to me that the hotel staff are never mentioned as having followed up with Lam when she didn't check out on January 31. I don't know whether this would have been normal (lack of ...? ) procedure, given that she was staying in the hostel section of the hotel on the lowermost floors.

Oh my. If that's correct that's a hell of a thing to have overlooked. :)

If she missed checking out why *was* she still in the hotel? You'd think that somebody would have been trying to find her or that her room might have been cleared, and belongings stored in Lost & Found.

I know folks will probably groan at me for suggesting it, but does that not plausibly suggest that she was still there because she was either willingly or unwillingly staying with somebody else in the hotel?

Is it implausible that the video we see is an Elisa Lam who hasn't taken her medication in the past day because she has fleed from a room elsewhere in the hotel and has begun to lose her bearings? Possibly not. I don't personally believe it from her body language but it's not impossible, I suppose.

You are right. The phone has never been found. Which is unusual in as much as not only was it the means of communicating with her parents but it was also her central tool for blogging. For a person who posted content on that device (and would have been part of documenting her trip) regularly it is a device which would have almost remained on her person at almost all times. It would not have been readily discarded.

But it wasn't in the tank.

If the police had been able to access it could have helped either corroborate or rule out any theory that she had been seeing a third party in the hotel. Texts messages, whatsapp, emails. Had anybody been added to her contacts recently. Photos of places she had been. Of people she had been with. Communications with other people during her stay.

The kind of detail, for example, that if she had been killed her killer might have wanted to erase any trace of. Removing the phone and disposing of it, knowing that the hard drive of a phone could never entirely delete a picture of them or a message they sent.

But more importantly, did the police trace usage on her account. Calls made to it. Did the GPRS show it somewhere it shouldn't have been. Because that could, again for example, have shown that she was off-site while investigations went on. Or the whereabouts of whoever took the phone off her.

But we'll never know.
 
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EnolaGaia

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Holy shit. If that's correct that's a hell of a thing to have overlooked.
Yep - isn't it? :thought:

But more importantly, did the police trace usage on her account. Calls made to it. Did the GPRS show it somewhere it shouldn't have been. Because that could, again for example, have shown that she was off-site while investigations went on. ...
Agreed ... However, I've never seen nor located any mention of attempts to check any online activity from her phone.

I don't recall ever seeing any specification of what specific mobile she had with her, so I don't know whether it was GPS-capable.
 

Dr_Baltar

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Yep - isn't it? :thought:

Agreed ... However, I've never seen nor located any mention of attempts to check any online activity from her phone.

I don't recall ever seeing any specification of what specific mobile she had with her, so I don't know whether it was GPS-capable.
I've read reports that she'd lost her mobile prior to reaching LA. Who knows? Most of the information online is now a muddle of facts, misreporting, idle/morbid speculation and tin-foil hattery. Anyone expecting they can conduct a coherent amateur investigation of this from the other side of a PC screen is really on a hiding to nothing.
 

EnolaGaia

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Now let me start weaving together the evidence cited above ...

First - if you check online drug data sources (e.g., drugs.com) you'll find there's a complex web of reported / known negative interactions among her psychotropic prescription drugs (the anti-depressants, etc.). Confusion, agitation, and cognitive weirdness are among the effects mentioned in reports from the field.

Second - this web of negative interaction possibilities also pertains between the set of her prescription drugs and the set of non-prescription drugs found among her possessions.

Third - Many of the individual drug-to-drug pairings comprising this web are rated (based on reports and other data) at the 'moderate' and / or 'severe' level of effect.

Fourth - Some of these pairings are explicitly contra-indicated to begin with. This is particularly true with regard to the ibuprofen, pseudoephedrine, and dexedrine found in her possession.

Fifth - Contrary to what's often cited (if mentioned at all ... ) there was detection of residual alcohol in her system (but only in the bile results). Alcohol consumption is contra-indicated for most of the meds in her possession.
 

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There's a timeline issue - If the February 1 CCTV videotape date is correct, this means Lam was still in the hotel a full day later than her planned departure on January 31.
Speculation: Could this be related to the date changeover from 1.31 to 2.1 (US style)? Either the date itself, or someone mistakenly setting the CCTV 12/24 "clock" to - say - 12 noon rather than 12 midnight?

maximus otter
 

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Elise Lam was taking multiple SSRI / SNRI drugs. The timing and consistency of her intake is unknown. The numbers cited in the inventory of her meds are all over the place - some possibly indicating intake after the prescription date and others showing a surplus above the last prescription amount.

Without knowing whether the set of January 11 prescriptions represented the entirety of her traveling stockpile, it's impossible to know for certain how much she'd taken, much less when she'd taken it.

Even without requiring any over-dosage ...

The potential inter-psychomed and overall inter-med interactions made Lam a prime candidate for Serotonin Syndrome:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serotonin_syndrome
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/serotonin-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20354758

This potentially life-threatening syndrome is triggered by a build-up of excess serotonin. In terms of both cause and effects, it mimics the somatic effects of many hallucinogens.

Agitation, restlessness, and confusion are common symptoms in even a mild occurrence.

Interestingly (in relation to Lam's case) a severe Serotonin Syndrome episode is typically accompanied by hyperthermia / high fever, and whole-body cooling is the recommended treatment for this particular symptom.

Bottom Lines:

- I strongly suspect she was effectively 'tripping' (at least physiologically) during her time at / in the elevator. Whether it was the result of over- or under-intake of her prescribed meds is an open question. The possible involvement of Serotonin Syndrome doesn't even require variance from her prescribed regimen.

- If there had been a triggering event leading to stress and / or over- or under-medication, it may well have had something to do with losing her phone (her comm lifeline) sometime after sending the last email, and probably after her sightings on January 31.

- Such a triggering event is not required for explanatory purposes. If she'd suffered an episode of Serotonin Syndrome, she could have lost the phone as an outcome rather than a contributing cause.

- If the documented February 1 date for the elevator video is correct, she could have been wandering around or hiding within the hotel (upstairs from the lobby, and quite possibly invisible to the staff ... ) for as much as a day while suffering a medication-induced incident. Such a wandering / hiding period of wandering might even have extended for more than a day. After all - the February 1 video is the last evidence, and it doesn't necessarily peg her last day alive.

- I won't go so far as to suggest going out on the fire escape (the only non-alarmed route to the roof) and / or self-immersion in cold water - either or both in response to severe overheating - is solid enough to frame as a theory, but it's an interestingly suggestive factor that conceivably could have been in play.

NOTE: None of this rules out the involvement of someone else during the course of events. If she were in the throes of Serotonin Syndrome, she would have been vulnerable to manipulation / exploitation / whatever.
 

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Speculation: Could this be related to the date changeover from 1.31 to 2.1 (US style)? Either the date itself, or someone mistakenly setting the CCTV 12/24 "clock" to - say - 12 noon rather than 12 midnight?
I've wondered about the accuracy of the time stamping, too. The time stamp is illegible. Those who've made a big deal about the forward jumps in the video are basing their cases on the partially visible movement of the second / minute fields. I've never seen a specific claim as to what exact time stamp numbers are on the tape - only that their minute visible portions seem to suddenly shift on occasion.

To make matters worse, there's no evidence in the imagery to suggest what time of day (or night) it was when Lam was at the elevator.

The hotel staff apparently told the LAPD the video was recorded on February 1, and the LAPD duly documented that as the date.

This is, unfortunately, the extent of what can be told about the timing.

Without knowing the details of the hotel's CCTV recording setup at the time, I don't know how much of a possibility such an erroneous setting may be.
 

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Elise Lam was taking multiple SSRI / SNRI drugs. The timing and consistency of her intake is unknown. The numbers cited in the inventory of her meds are all over the place - some possibly indicating intake after the prescription date and others showing a surplus above the last prescription amount.

Without knowing whether the set of January 11 prescriptions represented the entirety of her traveling stockpile, it's impossible to know for certain how much she'd taken, much less when she'd taken it.

Even without requiring any over-dosage ...

The potential inter-psychomed and overall inter-med interactions made Lam a prime candidate for Serotonin Syndrome:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serotonin_syndrome
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/serotonin-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20354758

This potentially life-threatening syndrome is triggered by a build-up of excess serotonin. In terms of both cause and effects, it mimics the somatic effects of many hallucinogens.

Agitation, restlessness, and confusion are common symptoms in even a mild occurrence.

Interestingly (in relation to Lam's case) a severe Serotonin Syndrome episode is typically accompanied by hyperthermia / high fever, and whole-body cooling is the recommended treatment for this particular symptom.

Bottom Lines:

- I strongly suspect she was effectively 'tripping' (at least physiologically) during her time at / in the elevator. Whether it was the result of over- or under-intake of her prescribed meds is an open question. The possible involvement of Serotonin Syndrome doesn't even require variance from her prescribed regimen.

- If there had been a triggering event leading to stress and / or over- or under-medication, it may well have had something to do with losing her phone (her comm lifeline) sometime after sending the last email, and probably after her sightings on January 31.

- Such a triggering event is not required for explanatory purposes. If she'd suffered an episode of Serotonin Syndrome, she could have lost the phone as an outcome rather than a contributing cause.

- If the documented February 1 date for the elevator video is correct, she could have been wandering around or hiding within the hotel (upstairs from the lobby, and quite possibly invisible to the staff ... ) for as much as a day while suffering a medication-induced incident. Such a wandering / hiding period of wandering might even have extended for more than a day. After all - the February 1 video is the last evidence, and it doesn't necessarily peg her last day alive.

- I won't go so far as to suggest going out on the fire escape (the only non-alarmed route to the roof) and / or self-immersion in cold water - either or both in response to severe overheating - is solid enough to frame as a theory, but it's an interestingly suggestive factor that conceivably could have been in play.

NOTE: None of this rules out the involvement of someone else during the course of events. If she were in the throes of Serotonin Syndrome, she would have been vulnerable to manipulation / exploitation / whatever.
I've mentioned Serotonin Syndrome earlier in this thread.
 

EnolaGaia

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I've mentioned Serotonin Syndrome earlier in this thread.
Yep - back in 2015, the same time the Brain Scratch video was first mentioned.

The Serotonin Syndrome mention was left dangling back then. Seeing as how there's a new flurry of discussion about the Lam case I wanted to resurrect and flesh out that angle - hopefully once and for all.
 

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I think the one thing we probably can all agree on though is that (online speculation and conspiracy theories aside) there are gaps and inconsistencies in the recording and documenting of the investigation.

Had there not been we probably would not be having this conversation. It would either have been a clear and unquestionable misadventure related to Lam's condition or it would be a murder investigation.

The reason this appears to have become so contentious is that there *are* gaps and contradictions.
 

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Yep - isn't it? :thought:



Agreed ... However, I've never seen nor located any mention of attempts to check any online activity from her phone.

I don't recall ever seeing any specification of what specific mobile she had with her, so I don't know whether it was GPS-capable.

That's also true. Her Tumblr was (we presume) autoposting from a queue after her disappearance. But we don't know what kind of phone it was. One would assume a smartphone because of the regular content she posted, but it depends how long a queue had been set up.

Phones have become such essential parts of modern missing persons investigations, but at the same point getting cell data records is time consuming. I get the impression that it was not exactly a high priority case for the LA PD until Canadian Authorities stepped in. As we've mentioned before, people go missing in LA all the time.
 

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I think the one thing we probably can all agree on though is that (online speculation and conspiracy theories aside) there are gaps and inconsistencies in the recording and documenting of the investigation.

Had there not been we probably would not be having this conversation. It would either have been a clear and unquestionable misadventure related to Lam's condition or it would be a murder investigation.

The reason this appears to have become so contentious is that there *are* gaps and contradictions.
I'd argue there are gaps and contradictions in anyone's life, and wish we'd all agree the poor woman was mentally ill and not behaving rationally as a result. Nothing more sinister than that, and I hate the way she's been posthumously exploited by the CTs.
 

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Although the medications Elisa was (or wasn't) taking and how they affected her behaviour during the time are also important to discuss, her meds can't be used as an explanation as to how she was able to close the lid on herself in the water tank. Perhaps a worker noticed the open lid, Elisa's body was already inside without the workers knowledge so the lid was closed by the worker who didn't want to implicate themselves when the body was found?.

edit: ... and if I can climb over the fence at Glastonbury (two years in a row, although admittedly that was before the festival was double fenced), Elisa Lam can get on that roof of The Cecil ..

I've posted someone's 4 part visit to the Cecil/Hotel Main, the guy is into the supernatural side of it though so it views a bit like Most Haunted (added spooky music and jump scares) with him also using EVP equipment, so avoid watching it if that isn't your sort of thing ... it's mainly interesting for his covert filming while being stalked by in house security and covers a lot of the corridors, both lifts as well as the mirror opposite the lift Elisa used, a peek into one of the rooms Elisa stayed in plus he also stays in Richard Ramirez's room .. altogether quite a lengthy watch as he was there for 3 days and three nights.

http://forum.forteantimes.com/index.php?threads/fortean-documentaries.49660/page-8
 
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EnolaGaia

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Although the medications Elisa was (or wasn't) taking and how they affected her behaviour during the time are also important to discuss, her meds can't be used as an explanation as to how she was able to close the lid on herself in the water tank. Perhaps a worker noticed the open lid, Elisa's body was already inside without the workers knowledge so the lid was closed by the worker who didn't want to implicate themselves when the body was found?. ...
The bit about how Lam could have closed the hatch atop the water tank from inside is something that gets mentioned a lot - particularly when someone is trying to argue there had to be another person involved.

However ...

According to the hotel maintenance guy who discovered her body, the hatch was open.

The maintenance guy's story appeared in a publication titled LAist in October 2015 - more than 2.5 years later. Here are the relevant passages ....

Cecil Hotel Employee Explains How He Found The Body Of Elisa Lam

In new court documents, the Cecil Hotel employee who found the body of Elisa Lam in a water tank on the hotel's roof in 2013 discussed how he ended up investigating the water tank, and what it would take for someone to get into the tank by themselves. ...

In court documents, Santiago Lopez said he had begun working at the Cecil Hotel in 2010 as a maintenance employee, City News Service reports. He said that he only knew who Elisa Lam was because police had begun searching for her after her family reported her missing, and that he aided officers by opening the doors of various rooms in the hotel as they conducted their investigation. He was also the one who would eventually find Lam's body in one of the four 1,000-gallon water tanks on the hotel's roof. Guests were complaining about the low water pressure, so Lopez said he took the elevator to the 15th floor and took a staircase up to the roof. He had to first turn off the rooftop alarm, then had to climb up onto the platform where the four tanks sat. Then, he had to climb another ladder to get to the top of the main tank.

"I noticed the hatch to the main water tank was open and looked inside and saw an Asian woman lying face-up in the water approximately twelve inches from the top of the tank," he said. ...
SOURCE: LAist, October 1, 2015
Accessed at the Wayback Machine:
https://web.archive.org/web/2015102.../2015/10/01/elisa_lam_wrongful_death_suit.php
 
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