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Canadian tourist found dead in hotel water tank: Accident victim?

February 20, 2013 |  1:00 pm

It's too early to determine whether missing Canadian tourist Elisa Lam, whose body was found inside a water tank atop a downtown Los Angeles hotel, was the victim of a homicide, law enforcement sources said.

Officials plan to perform an autopsy Thursday. But the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the case was ongoing, said investigators said it's possible her death was accidental. Detectives were looking for any signs of trauma on her body or other clues at the hotel.

Police confirmed Tuesday that the body of Lam, 21, was pulled from a tank at the Cecil Hotel. 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 investigators were still trying to determine how and why Lam got in the water tank and had "no idea" yet how long she may have been inside. The matter is being treated as a death investigation, he said.

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

She was reporting missing about three weeks ago. Her exact 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 if the tanks were examined.

"We did a very thorough search of the hotel," he said. "But we didn't search every room; we could only do that if we had probable cause" that a crime had been committed.

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

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