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Questions linger after autopsy on woman found in water tank

The cause of death of a Canadian tourist whose body was found inside a water tank atop a downtown Los Angeles hotel will be deferred pending toxicology tests, coroner's officials said Thursday.

The body of Elisa Lam, 21, was pulled from a tank at the Cecil Hotel on Tuesday. Lam, who authorities said traveled to California from Vancouver on Jan. 26, was last seen Jan. 31 at the hotel.

Los Angeles County coroner's spokesman Ed Winter said the autopsy on Lam was completed. He would not say whether the medical examination found visible signs of trauma on the body.

But Winter said toxicology tests, which would take six to eight weeks to complete, would help determine if Lam was taking medication or another substance at the time of her death and whether any such medication was at therapeutic levels. He did not elaborate.

Winter also did not reveal 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.

Law enforcement officials familiar with the case said that although foul play is always a possibility, they are closely examining whether Lam's death might have been accidental.

The body was discovered by a hotel worker checking out complaints of weak water pressure, police said.

Lam was reporting missing about three weeks ago. Her reasons for coming to California were unclear, but police said they believe her ultimate destination was Santa Cruz. Detectives have not discussed her exact movements or whether she had visited anyone here.

Last week, police released video of Lam inside a Cecil Hotel elevator. In surveillance footage, Lam is seen pushing buttons for multiple floors and at one point stepping out of the elevator, waving her arms.

Investigators searched the roof of the Cecil with the aid of dogs when Lam was first reported missing. Sgt. Rudy Lopez said he didn't know whether the tanks were examined.

The only ways to get to the roof are a locked door that only employees have access to and a fire escape. The door is equipped with an alarm system that notifies hotel personnel if someone is up there, Lopez said.

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-- Andrew Blankstein

Follow Andrew Blankstein on Twitter.

 
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