January 31, 2013. Canadian tourist Elisa Lam is supposed to check out of the Cecil Hotel and leave for Santa Cruz but vanishes without a trace. After not hearing from her, the parents of 21-year-old Elisa report her missing.
The hotel guests start to complain about low water pressure and an odd smell. Two weeks later, on February 19th, Elisa's dead body is discovered, nude and floating inside one of the hotel’s water tanks.
But this is where the mystery only begins.
The LAPD released a CCTV footage of the last known sighting of her, taken by a camera on February 1, in one of the Cecil Hotel’s elevators. The video immediately drew worldwide attention to the case due to Elisa’s bizarre behavior.
The video shows the last moments of her life. Clearly distressed woman entering and exiting the elevator in the hotel’s lobby appears to be running from or hiding from someone, talking to herself and acting erratically.
No alcohol or recreational drugs were found in her system. Elisa did struggle with bipolar disorder and had to take a combination of prescription drugs, but coroner noted prescription drugs were not a factor in a mysterious death. There were no evidence of physical trauma or sexual assault, despite Elisa's body found naked, neither was there evidence to suggest she committed suicide.
However, the official report states the cause of death was accidental drowning, with bipolar disorder as a significant factor.
While the video is hunting, the explanations can be found. Marelise van der Merwe has a much more simple explanation for her behavior compared the hundreds of theories flying around the Internet.
However, the explanation how did she end up in a water tank is not clear.
The roof was barricaded throughout and protected by an alarm. The water tanks themselves were so difficult to access that firefighters had to cut the tank open to remove her body. The lids of the water tanks are so heavy, it's almost impossible for a 21-year-old woman could have moved them. And even if Elisa did somehow get into the water tank by herself, how was she able to close the lid behind her?