No trauma signs on body of Canadian woman found in L.A. hotel water tank

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The autopsy of a 21-year-old Canadian student found dead in a water tank atop a historic Los Angeles hotel turned up no fatal wounds, offering no clear answers to her puzzling last days and death, coroner’s officials said on Friday.

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The inconclusive finding means that further tests must be conducted to determine a cause of death for Elisa Lam, who went missing from the Cecil Hotel in downtown Los Angeles under suspicious circumstances in late January.

Lam’s body was found floating in one of four large water tanks on the hotel’s roof on Tuesday after guests complained of low water pressure in their rooms. Health officials have issued a do-not-drink order for hotel water until it is tested.

Police have said that detectives had been hoping the autopsy would help determine if her death was the result of an accident or foul play.

“They didn’t find any bullet holes, they didn’t find any stab wounds to my knowledge. So then you’ve got to go to the next step,” Los Angeles County Coroner’s spokesman Ed Winter said.

He said coroner’s investigators would conduct toxicology tests to establish if Lam was on any medication at the time of her death and if it was at therapeutic levels. Her organs will also be studied to determine if she suffered from any medical issues.

“You see if in fact there were any heart issues, did she die of hypothermia, did she drown,” said Winter. “Were her lungs filled with water?”

Lam, a college student from Vancouver, British Columbia, was last seen by staff at the hotel on January 31 and detectives had characterized her disappearance as suspicious. She had been traveling alone but in regular contact with her family in Canada.

Police say the reason for Lam’s visit to Southern California was unclear but that her final destination was expected to have been Santa Cruz in central California.

Security video taken in an elevator of the hotel and released by police last week showed her acting strangely, hiding in a corner, pushing multiple buttons and repeatedly peering around the elevator doors into a hallway.

Her body was discovered in one of the four large, cylindrical tanks supplying water to guest rooms at the art deco hotel, which was built in the 1920s and is considered a local landmark.

Local public radio KPCC reported that the hotel has had dark chapters in its long history, including murders in the ‘20s and ‘30s and a woman who leapt from a window in the 1960s.

The radio station said that two serial killers were known to have stayed there in the 1980s: Richard Ramirez, known as the “Night Stalker,” and Austrian murderer Jack Unterweger.

Firefighters removed the remains by cutting through the side of the tank under a canopy that shielded them from news helicopters overhead.

Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Dan Grebler