The Mysterious Case Of Elisa Lam

EnolaGaia

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Here's some additional background info from the same LAist article ...

Police had checked the roof during their investigation, but did not think to look in the tanks. Lopez said that he didn't notice anything wrong with the alarm on the door to the roof that day, nor had he heard it go off at any point during Lam's stay.

He said that to the best of his knowledge, no other hotel guests have ever been able to access the water tanks.

Pedro Tovar, the Cecil's chief engineer, noted that there are four ways to get onto the roof. Three fire escapes which you can get to via interior doors, and one staircase from the 14th floor. An alarm will sound if someone attempts to open the door to the roof if it is not deactivated first, something that typically only hotel employees would be able to do. If the alarm sounds, it is audible to the front desk, as well as the 14th and 15th floors.

Assuming one could get onto the roof undetected, Tovar said that you would first have to climb up to the platform the tanks sit on, then squeeze between them and other plumbing equipment. There, you'd find another ladder, which you could use to climb onto one of the four cisterns. Each has a heavy, metal lid, which you'd need to be able to open before you could get inside.
NOTE: The hatches are rectangular lids, hinged and permanently affixed to the tops of the tanks. Opening one doesn't involve lifting it off, but rather pivoting it up and open. This would still require some effort, but not as much as having to completely lift the lid free.
 

Swifty

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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 ....



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
Thanks, I hadn't seen the maintenance guy's report before .. so there were 3 other ways she could have gotten onto the roof without having to go through the alarmed door, she was a fairly petite woman so presumably could have squeezed through the tanks to the ladder .. that only leaves speculation as to whether she'd be strong enough to open the tank lid presuming it hadn't been left open anyway.
 

EnolaGaia

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Thanks, I hadn't seen the maintenance guy's report before .. so there were 3 other ways she could have gotten onto the roof without having to go through the alarmed door, she was a fairly petite woman so presumably could have squeezed through the tanks to the ladder .. that only leaves speculation as to whether she'd be strong enough to open the tank lid presuming it hadn't been left open anyway.
Yep ...

I hadn't seen the maintenance guy's late 2015 statement (in court; under oath ... ) either.

By the time this was published there had been almost 3 years during which the notion the hatch had been closed (and the conspiratorial ramifications it implied ... ) had permeated the widespread online discussions of the case.

The investigative section of the autopsy report:

- doesn't mention the hatch had been discovered open, and
- characterizes the hatch as 'removable' (which may be the origin of the mistaken impression it had to be lifted free rather than swung open).
 

CuriousIdent

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That certainly does sound more plausible. Still difficult to get that lid moved, but not impossible. And far easier to get roof access.

"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,"

could also suggest that she could have entered the tank feet first, of her own choice.

To play devils advocate though, it doesn't write off the possibility of this being a disposal or of her being coerced/threatened into entering the tank. Or as to how/why she was naked.
 

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That certainly does sound more plausible. Still difficult to get that lid moved, but not impossible. And far easier to get roof access.

"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,"

could also suggest that she could have entered the tank feet first, of her own choice.

To play devils advocate though, it doesn't write off the possibility of this being a disposal or of her being coerced/threatened into entering the tank. Or as to how/why she was naked.
If the lid was a swing open design, I doubt it would be that difficult to swing it open ? .. as to her clothes, I seem to remember (maybe falsely) an earlier link stating her clothes were found with her in the tank but I could be wrong .. armchair internet speculation nearer the time discussed a scenario of her clothes being thrown from the roof of the building and discussed the timings of the street cleaners if and where they could have found them.
 

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If the lid was a swing open design, I doubt it would be that difficult to swing it open ?

Yes. And if it remained open, then it makes it more plausible. Much of the debate on this was how an individual would flip the lid open get inside and the close it from within.

.. as to her clothes, I seem to remember (maybe falsely) an earlier link stating her clothes were found with her in the tank but I could be wrong .. armchair internet speculation nearer the time discussed a scenario of her clothes being thrown from the roof of the building and discussed the timings of the street cleaners if and where they could have found them.

Supposedly, yes. While I don't think we've seen a specific list of clothes found I believe that these, along with her room key, were found in the tank with her. She was naked. But her clothes were floating nearby, and coated in something sandy.

Her phone has never been found.
 

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Yes. And if it remained open, then it makes it more plausible. Much of the debate on this was how an individual would flip the lid open get inside and the close it from within.




Supposedly, yes. While I don't think we've seen a specific list of clothes found I believe that these, along with her room key, were found in the tank with her. She was naked. But her clothes were floating nearby, and coated in something sandy.

Her phone has never been found.
The 'something sandy' thing's also interesting .. on a wild tangent, I live on the coast so limescale is a constant problem both with industrial water machinery (glass and plate washing machines in bars and restaurants) and also our kettles at home here. I've just pulled out and washed a kettle from our loft because limescale has destroyed our previous one .... still, every cup of coffee I make from the new/old/replacement kettle leaves a small sandy residue in the bottom of each cup. I'd imagine the water tank Elisa's body was found in was only used for storing water so no heating elements would have been inside it but it would be interesting to investigate where the LA skid row water comes from and if adding salt to the water, as we have to (that or a small bundle of wire wool to capture the limescale) is required in that locale.

The zip code for the area that covers The Hotel Main is 90014, where the water comes from to that zip code is the next thing to look at looking into a possible explanation for the sandy residue found on Elisa's clothing ... or not ..
 
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Swifty

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True enough. I am no stranger to hard water. We get a lot of limescale ourselves. But I wouldn't describe it as 'sandy'. Limescale tends to be very chalky if anything - leaving a white crust on things.
Maybe a bit of corrosion or rust inside the tank instead ?
 

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.. as to her clothes, I seem to remember (maybe falsely) an earlier link stating her clothes were found with her in the tank but I could be wrong ...
... Supposedly, yes. While I don't think we've seen a specific list of clothes found I believe that these, along with her room key, were found in the tank with her. She was naked. But her clothes were floating nearby, and coated in something sandy. ...
All these points about clothing are covered in the autopsy report, including the following:

- all the clothing items were found inside the water tank with the body;

- a complete listing of these clothing articles (including shoes);

- a statement (in the investigator section) that the clothes were the same ones she was wearing in the elevator video;

- the coroner's description that "All of the items had sand like particulate attached to the fabric and loosely present in the fold of the clothes ..."

- the evidence collector's statement that there were flecks of a white material on the clothing in addition to 'sand'.

There's no mention of the particulates being so prominently present as to represent any 'coating'; the report merely says the particulates were found on all the clothing.

Her hotel key card and wristwatch were found with her.
 

Gizmos Mama

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Assuming she was having a medication induced overheating episode, accompanied with confusion, etc, how would she even have known there were water tanks on the roof? It's not something very common in Canada, as they would just be giant ice cubes in winter. Plus, I have to think that if she was compelled to find a way to cool off, climbing to a roof in a hot climate like LA would be the last thing she would be likely to do, even in a confused state.

Also, the maintenance man who found her said she was "in the water approximately twelve inches from the top of the tank,". If that's the case, and she climbed in by herself, then why couldn't she get out again?
 

EnolaGaia

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Assuming she was having a medication induced overheating episode, accompanied with confusion, etc, how would she even have known there were water tanks on the roof? It's not something very common in Canada, as they would just be giant ice cubes in winter. Plus, I have to think that if she was compelled to find a way to cool off, climbing to a roof in a hot climate like LA would be the last thing she would be likely to do, even in a confused state.
She need not have known in advance there were water storage tanks on the hotel roof. Such tanks are commonly used on taller buildings in urban environments for storage and to maintain water pressure within the building.

The bit about needing to cool off was mentioned solely because it might provide an explanation for why she may have been out on one of the fire escapes in the first place. At the time the Hotel Cecil had 3 exterior fire escapes. All were accessible from all floors, and there were no alarms that would have been tripped by accessing any of them.

The main door to the roof did have an alarm, and some commentators have focused on that potential access path alone in padding the degree of mystery attributed to the case. The point is that there were 4 ways of accessing the roof, of which 3 were freely accessible to her from inside the building without anyone being alerted.

LA has a moderate Mediterranean climate, not an unusually hot one. Average temperatures in the relevant timeframe (late January / early February) are mid-60's (F.) for highs and upper 40's for lows (circa 17 - 20 C. and circa 7 - 9 C., respectively).

It gets cool in the evenings in LA.

Lam was apparently at least one day overdue in checking out, which may directly or indirectly help to explain why she may not have wanted to be seen in the lobby.

Whether for the sake of cooling off or not, once she was out on the fire escape all she had to do was climb the steps to get to the roof. Once on the roof, the 4 large water tanks would have been in plain sight.
 

EnolaGaia

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Also, the maintenance man who found her said she was "in the water approximately twelve inches from the top of the tank,". If that's the case, and she climbed in by herself, then why couldn't she get out again?
The water levels can vary in any or all the tanks depending on interior usage and whatever refill protocol was in effect. I have no reason to believe all 4 tanks were constantly maintained at a full or near-full state, and I've seen no claim they were.

In any case, there was a lapse of up to 18 days between her last sighting (1 Feb.) and her body's discovery (19 Feb.). There's no basis for presuming the water level when she entered the tank (voluntarily or otherwise) was the same as when she was found more than 2 weeks later.
 

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All these points about clothing are covered in the autopsy report, including the following:

- all the clothing items were found inside the water tank with the body;

- a complete listing of these clothing articles (including shoes);

- a statement (in the investigator section) that the clothes were the same ones she was wearing in the elevator video;

- the coroner's description that "All of the items had sand like particulate attached to the fabric and loosely present in the fold of the clothes ..."

- the evidence collector's statement that there were flecks of a white material on the clothing in addition to 'sand'.

There's no mention of the particulates being so prominently present as to represent any 'coating'; the report merely says the particulates were found on all the clothing.

Her hotel key card and wristwatch were found with her.

The white material would likely be limescale or similar. Not unlikely in drinking water.

The fact that sand was found in the folds of the clothing might support a theory that Miss Lam had acquired that through having spent some time in a dusty/sandy environment after her last sighting.
 

EnolaGaia

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The white material would likely be limescale or similar. Not unlikely in drinking water.

The fact that sand was found in the folds of the clothing might support a theory that Miss Lam had acquired that through having spent some time in a dusty/sandy environment after her last sighting.
Another thing to consider is that the hatch was open, and at least some of the particulates may have simply been urban fallout that adhered to the clothing during its time in the tank.

LA doesn't get a lot of precipitation, so it's a "dusty / sandy environment" in general.
 

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At the time the Hotel Cecil had 3 exterior fire escapes. All were accessible from all floors, and there were no alarms that would have been tripped by accessing any of them.
I didn't realize that the fire escapes weren't alarmed, and also hadn't thought about it being winter in LA, with the much cooler temps. Cheers!
 

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Thank you Skinny! I was following the case closely - even wanted to do Elevator challenge in my 10-floor building haha
This has some really new facts into Elisa's personal life that could share more light into her psychological state.

During the course of watching the clip I thought "Atmosphere" by me beloved JD would be a perfect soundtrack :)

Overall, the presenter at the end concludes multiple items based on "best case" scenario and I have seen that before... again, stating the facts and making conclusion on "this would suit the best"... not working for me sadly

Why would she buy a lot of presents for family and friends if she did not want to come back?

Who knows... even after this, I am not convinced this is true conclusion....
 
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No, I agree. It is just one of the many conclusions out there. Forever a mystery.
 

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regarding the LAM-ELISA tuberculosis tests angle, its only an unfathomable coincidence when viewed after the event ... it seems the skid row epidemic was in full swing at the time of her visit, has it been mooted that she came across a reference to the acronym and it formed part of, or perhaps was even a primary trigger to, her generally accepted psychosis ?

a friend underwent a full scale psychotic episode in the 90s and i was close to her at the time and during the aftermath ... i observed during the days leading up her growing certainty that arbitrary commonplace daily items were signs and symbols related to her personally, eg. car numberplates and prices of drinks ... and that these things were appearing all around her, until everything she encountered formed part of a personal narrative (made sense to her, bizarre to anyone else - eg an individuals name was an anagram of Plan Array, therefore he could not be trusted; giant new york golden apples were stuck in her throat etc) with events spiralling tighter and tighter until she disappeared for a few days, having taken trains to destinations part-drawn from the narrative (eg. maghull rather than hull) checked into hotels with strangers, eventually being located after having broken into a police station ...

i imagine if she had come across a direct reference to her own full name in connection with a tubercular epidemic it would have formed a principal part of the catastrophic collapse
 

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i imagine if she had come across a direct reference to her own full name in connection with a tubercular epidemic it would have formed a principal part of the catastrophic collapse
wow - that's a new thought - thanks Henry, that's very intriguing
 

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wow - that's a new thought - thanks Henry, that's very intriguing
exactly ... i tried to determine if the two tests were actively linked prior to the case, or if they had been opportunistically conflated after, and if there had been any references in press/online elsewhere etc using that portmanteau term
 

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Interesting info in the video. She was taking a lot of medication, but what was insightful was her photographing the roof tops of buildings, which may explain her desire to get on the roof of the hotel in the first place. The Tb test angle mentioned before has to be one of the more bizarre aspects to the case.
 

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local news articles featuring the LAM-ELISA test and described using that precise term started to appear just a few days after her disappearance and before her body was found, in relation to the TB outbreak at skidrow ... i cant find any articles online from the immediate period prior, but that doesnt mean there werent notices up at certain locations ... the idea of a psychosis triggered by/including her coming upon that test formed of her exact name is intetesting, but theres nothing definitive i can find
 
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