Elisa Lam’s unexplained death draws attention, theories in China


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As the investigation continues into the death of the Canadian tourist whose body was discovered in a water tank atop a downtown Los Angeles hotel, the case continues to draw attention in China, where her family is originally from.

An initial autopsy performed on Elisa Lam, 21, was inconclusive, and coroner’s officials said additional toxicology tests, which take six to eight weeks to complete, would be needed before a cause of death could be determined.


Lam’s body was pulled from a tank at the Cecil Hotel on Feb. 19, nearly three weeks after she was last seen at the hotel. Lam, who lived in Vancouver, had traveled to California from Canada on Jan. 26, authorities said. Her final destination appeared to be Santa Cruz, they said.

Los Angeles County coroner’s spokesman Ed Winter did not say whether coroner’s investigators had determined how Lam got into the water tank or how long she may have been inside. The matter is being treated as a death investigation, he said.

Amateur sleuths have honed in on the case, posting theories on websites about what might have happened to Lam. International media outlets, particularly in Canada and China, have also continued their coverage of the story.

Much of the speculation focuses on surveillance video released by Los Angeles police that shows Lam in an elevator at the hotel. The video shows Lam pushing buttons for multiple floors and stepping out of the elevator, waving her arms.

The video has gone viral on the Chinese video site, with more than 3 million views and 40,000 comments in a 10-day span.

Many commenters said they were disturbed by the tape, with one calling it ‘spooky.’

‘I knew about Elisa Lam but this is the first time I saw the video,’ one wrote. ‘I’m so scared, I’m shaking. I’m numb.’


The case is not the first recent L.A.-based investigation to attract Chinese attention. Last year’s shooting deaths of two Chinese graduate students near USC brought Chinese media to the university and county courtrooms, and drew strong reactions overseas.


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-- John Hannon in Beijing and Kate Mather in Los Angeles