Elisa Lam - What Happened?

Why did Elisa die?

  • Homicide/crime of opportunity - Murder due to chance encounter with someone on the day she died

    Votes: 162 47.4%
  • Homicide/preplanned - Elisa was lured to her death in a scheme planned before the day she died

    Votes: 46 13.5%
  • Accidental death - related to an altered mental state: drug induced, psychosis, sleep walking, etc.

    Votes: 86 25.1%
  • Suicide - Elisa intended to end her life due to mental issues/other

    Votes: 7 2.0%
  • Occult/supernatural/conspiracy - related to occult, supernatural phenomena or gov./other conspiracy

    Votes: 5 1.5%
  • Unsure/Do not know

    Votes: 36 10.5%

  • Total voters
    342
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findinganatta

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The case is closed, but still unsolved. Mental health professionals that posted here <modsnip> "guessed" that she was having mental issues during the video. This was guesswork and having some background in psychology I can tell you that people with bi-polar disorder do not normally walk to the roof of a building and accidently kill themselves in a water tank.
snipped
I just want to address the last sentence above. I don't think it proves much to say bipolar people don't usually do the exact, specific acts of this one individual. It doesn't tell us much one way or the other that bipolar people don't normally crawl into water tanks on the roofs of buildings, because it isn't those specific events that are causing people to conclude that her mental illness diagnosis played the primary role in her death.

I feel like the important point in analyzing the mental illness aspect of case is this: people suffering from bipolar psychosis (and even severe states of mania or depression) absolutely do engage in bizarre and sometimes dangerous behaviors of all kinds, and the findings put forth by the coroner fit well within that range. Whether or not EL's bipolar diagnosis did indeed cause her to do this, it is definitely well within the range of possibility. Bipolar psychosis cannot be discounted as a perfectly viable explanation, just as foul play cannot be discounted :)

And while the video can be interpreted in any number of ways, it does fit very specifically into the behavioral patterns associated with psychosis, despite the fact that it does not provide enough information to say for sure what is happening. I think that statistically it is much more likely that her elevator behavior is explained by mental illness than than a stalker or killer chasing her or playing games with her (not that those are the only two possibilities).
 

Nickfalzone

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I just want to address the last sentence above. I don't think it proves much to say bipolar people don't usually do the exact, specific acts of this one individual. It doesn't tell us much one way or the other that bipolar people don't normally crawl into water tanks on the roofs of buildings, because it isn't those specific events that are causing people to conclude that her mental illness diagnosis played the primary role in her death.

I feel like the important point in analyzing the mental illness aspect of case is this: people suffering from bipolar psychosis (and even severe states of mania or depression) absolutely do engage in bizarre and sometimes dangerous behaviors of all kinds, and the findings put forth by the coroner fit well within that range. Whether or not EL's bipolar diagnosis did indeed cause her to do this, it is definitely well within the range of possibility. Bipolar psychosis cannot be discounted as a perfectly viable explanation, just as foul play cannot be discounted :)

And while the video can be interpreted in any number of ways, it does fit very specifically into the behavioral patterns associated with psychosis, despite the fact that it does not provide enough information to say for sure what is happening. I think that statistically it is much more likely that her elevator behavior is explained by mental illness than than a stalker or killer chasing her or playing games with her (not that those are the only two possibilities).

But we don't know that she had any history of bi-polar psychosis, only that she was diagnosed as bi-polar. Keep in mind that you probably interact with bi-polar individuals on a daily basis, most of which have never been diagnosed or sought help for it. The biggest issue us sleuthers have had on this case is that very little information has been made public. Literally, nothing except for the video and the information that she was bi-polar. If the police actually released information on her phone, state of her hotel room (was it flooded at all?), and eyewitness/family/friend interviews to establish her character or possible change in character, I might be more inclined to side with their conclusion. As is, I think it's perfectly fair to conclude that the LAPD has an enormous caseload and closed this one without, perhaps, a thorough investigation.
 

2Hip2BSquare

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Ok official COD for Elisa: Accidental drowning.

http://m.huffpost.com/ca/entry/3474116

"Lieutenant Fred Corral told The Huffington Post B.C. that the cause of death was, 'accidental due to drowning, other significant conditions: bipolar disorder.'"

RIP sweet Elisa. You left this world too soon.
 

2Hip2BSquare

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I do not believe, in my humble opinion, that Elisa's death was accidental or that she had complications with bipolar that led her to the roof regardless of what the coroner/LE says.
 

Nickfalzone

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It should be added that there is one significant detail for each conclusion.

Accidental - bi-polar disorder
Foul Play - body found in a well-concealed hiding spot

Re: the latter - if the murderer needed to hide the body but did not want to risk taking it out of the hotel, they would need to hide it somewhere that the police would not immediately look at. The individual may have had experience with plumbing & maintenance, but not the rules of police-work. Thus, they did not assume that their room would be a safe hiding spot as police might search it. As it turns out, the police need a warrant to search each room, so that didn't happen. There really was no place left to hide the body except on the roof in a water tank.
 

Newton

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Maybe you have me confused with someone else? : /

Possibly. Sorry for the misunderstanding re the armchair expert comment.

My opinion: I did not find LE's behavior to be "cagey". They investigated a possible missing person's case. They released surveillance video of her last known movements. They had the family at the press conference. This all seems proper to me.

Once the body was found they gathered available evidence and turned the body over for an autopsy. Yes, the toxicology report did take longer than expected but that can be explained away by a backlog at the lab and possibly the number and kind of tests being done. During that interim they did not have anything else to report and made it clear that would likely be the case.

Some of what people found suspicious was incorrect information given out by various media sources. That is why it is important to base opinions off of official statements and recorded interviews with LE as opposed to how a reporter interprets the info.

The only thing that I feel deserves clarification by LE is whether the alarm malfunctioned on the door leading to the roof and if a lock is required on the cistern's hatch. To me, these are potential public safety issues and the hotel needs to be up to code. We do not have the right to demand information about if Elisa was clothed when found. Info that others here want to know seems unreasonable to me. We don't need to know who's cell phone she was using, or who she visited while in California or the specifics of the lab results. In fact, revealing some of this info could infringe on rights to privacy.
 

Newton

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Was it clarified if "no drugs found in her system" referred to all drugs, including medications? Or just recreational substances?
(sorry if this was clarified before and I've missed it)

I have not seen clarification of what kind of drugs were tested.
 

Nickfalzone

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The only thing that I feel deserves clarification by LE is whether the alarm malfunctioned on the door leading to the roof and if a lock is required on the cistern's hatch. To me, these are potential public safety issues and the hotel needs to be up to code. We do not have the right to demand information about if Elisa was clothed when found. Info that others here want to know seems unreasonable to me. We don't need to know who's cell phone she was using, or who she visited while in California or the specifics of the lab results. In fact, revealing some of this info could infringe on rights to privacy.

Everyone wants to know the details of the roof access alarm and the tank's hatch. It seems to me based on other sleuthers visits to the hotel over the last few months that the door alarm is not turned on, and has not been on for quite awhile. Others here have been able to walk onto the roof with no issue, and not requiring the fire escape. As far as the cistern hatch - what I have read is that the hatch definitely was not locked prior to her death, but now has a padlock on it. My question about the hatch is how did she manage to open it, squeeze her body through the narrow opening, and then proceed to close the hatch from inside, all during the wee hours of the night? During the day it looks a bit tricky to get in there, but doing so in the dark seems like it would be quite a challenge. Keep in mind that bi-polar disorder does not mean a disconnection from reality. That would be psychosis, which she had not been diagnosed with. As I said earlier, there are probably millions or tens of millions that could be diagnosed as bi-polar and are still able to lead relatively normal lives. The complete disconnect from reality seems more likely to be drug-induced (or withdrawal induced) as opposed to simply a mental health episode. Since tox came back with nothing drug-related in her system, I have difficulty accepting LE's determination.
 

2Hip2BSquare

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Why is LAPD still saying she got into LA on the 26th (or the reporters)?

It's driving me nuts.
 

2Hip2BSquare

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Again I'm severe bipolar (with Borderline comorbidity) and I take similar meds to Elisa and I can say honestly that I've never acted like she did in that video - on OR off my meds.

As I said before, her body would naturally produce ethanol and GHB after being in water so I wonder how exactly it could be determined if the GHB/ ethanol levels were pre or post mortam. Scary thing is, you can't really tell the difference in a case like Elisa's.

So what happens is, since they couldn't make any specific COD bc no trauma to body/clear toxicology results - they are trained to look at the contributing factors to give a probable COD.

All they know conclusively of POSSIBLE contributing factor is that she had psychological issues/BPD....

But! there was no suicide note so they couldn't rule it suicide, so it had to be ruled accidental.

IMHO
 

Newton

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The case is closed, but still unsolved. Mental health professionals that posted here <modsnip> "guessed" that she was having mental issues during the video. This was guesswork and having some background in psychology I can tell you that people with bi-polar disorder do not normally walk to the roof of a building and accidently kill themselves in a water tank. This entire situation was strange, to say the least, and as I said, is still not definitively solved. Lack of evidence for foul play does not eliminate it as a possibility, unfortunately.

How do we know YOU have some background in psychology? The fact that you don't think someone in a manic state could end up in this scenario, makes me question the depth of it. Websleuths has a forum regarding how they verify experts. The mental health professionals that you are blindly attacking have provided their real names, contact info and professional license details which is then verified by ws.

[ame="http://www.websleuths.com/forums/showthread.php?t=167277"]Verification Process for Professional or Insider Posters - Websleuths Crime Sleuthing Community[/ame]
 

2Hip2BSquare

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Everyone wants to know the details of the roof access alarm and the tank's hatch. It seems to me based on other sleuthers visits to the hotel over the last few months that the door alarm is not turned on, and has not been on for quite awhile. Others here have been able to walk onto the roof with no issue, and not requiring the fire escape. As far as the cistern hatch - what I have read is that the hatch definitely was not locked prior to her death, but now has a padlock on it. My question about the hatch is how did she manage to open it, squeeze her body through the narrow opening, and then proceed to close the hatch from inside, all during the wee hours of the night? During the day it looks a bit tricky to get in there, but doing so in the dark seems like it would be quite a challenge. Keep in mind that bi-polar disorder does not mean a disconnection from reality. That would be psychosis, which she had not been diagnosed with. As I said earlier, there are probably millions or tens of millions that could be diagnosed as bi-polar and are still able to lead relatively normal lives. The complete disconnect from reality seems more likely to be drug-induced (or withdrawal induced) as opposed to simply a mental health episode. Since tox came back with nothing drug-related in her system, I have difficulty accepting LE's determination.

Thank you! Bipolar is more of a MOOD disorder rather than a personality disorder.

They typically don't suffer the complete separation from reality even when manic (such as hallucinations and psychosis)...

And if she were behaving Manic, I don't see why she would kill herself. Mania induces feelings of euphoria. Depression is the state that would drive a bipolar individual to commit suicide. IMO
 

2Hip2BSquare

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Still, we are not dealing with a conclusive cause of death, just a speculative cause of death. Evidence that this was an accidental death would be something like Elisa having a conversation earlier that night with another guest or hotel employee and told them she was going to have fun on the roof late at night and take some cool photos. Or an email or phone call to a friend that indicated a psychosis/paranoia. But those conversations never happened, as far as we know. In fact, there is no evidence that proves accidental death. It is simply a conclusion that LE reached due to lack of evidence. It should be called an "unsolved death", as opposed to a more definitive "accidental" one, since as far as we know, there is no specific evidence to the latter.

I agree COD should range from

Inconclusive/unsolved,
accident,
suicide,
foul play/homicide

It shouldn't just automatically dropped to accidental just bc there's no evidence of suicide via a note or conversation. So I think even accidental is assuming too much.

Then again, we don't know everything the detectives do... So whatever...
 

2Hip2BSquare

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It should be added that there is one significant detail for each conclusion.

Accidental - bi-polar disorder
Foul Play - body found in a well-concealed hiding spot

Re: the latter - if the murderer needed to hide the body but did not want to risk taking it out of the hotel, they would need to hide it somewhere that the police would not immediately look at. The individual may have had experience with plumbing & maintenance, but not the rules of police-work. Thus, they did not assume that their room would be a safe hiding spot as police might search it. As it turns out, the police need a warrant to search each room, so that didn't happen. There really was no place left to hide the body except on the roof in a water tank.

I agree. Dogs didn't indicate Elisa was on the roof during the preliminary searches days after she went missing (Feb 5 I believe?).

So if she accidentally died in the cistern Jan 31st, why would the dogs not indicate her body was in the cistern on Feb 5?

Maybe because her body was NOT in the cistern on Feb 5 when the dogs searched! Maybe she was put in the cistern AFTER the roof top canine search.

And in the state of California police cannot search a hotel room without consent of the patron as technically the room is their property as long as they are paying for it...
 

Newton

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Everyone wants to know the details of the roof access alarm and the tank's hatch. It seems to me based on other sleuthers visits to the hotel over the last few months that the door alarm is not turned on, and has not been on for quite awhile. Others here have been able to walk onto the roof with no issue, and not requiring the fire escape. As far as the cistern hatch - what I have read is that the hatch definitely was not locked prior to her death, but now has a padlock on it. My question about the hatch is how did she manage to open it, squeeze her body through the narrow opening, and then proceed to close the hatch from inside, all during the wee hours of the night? During the day it looks a bit tricky to get in there, but doing so in the dark seems like it would be quite a challenge. Keep in mind that bi-polar disorder does not mean a disconnection from reality. That would be psychosis, which she had not been diagnosed with. As I said earlier, there are probably millions or tens of millions that could be diagnosed as bi-polar and are still able to lead relatively normal lives. The complete disconnect from reality seems more likely to be drug-induced (or withdrawal induced) as opposed to simply a mental health episode. Since tox came back with nothing drug-related in her system, I have difficulty accepting LE's determination.

Thanks for the info on the hatch lock. A lot of your issues with this scenario have been covered in earlier posts. The opening of the hatch would easily have accommodated her size. Ladders and other structures would have made it easy to climb on top of the cistern. Keeping in mind the length of time she was in there and our unfamiliarity with the hatch closing closing components, we do not know whether or not she closed the hatch. It is possible she lifted it enough to climb in and gravity closed it. Do we know if it is only capable of being in a closed position or a 180 degree open position? Could it sustain a position in between for any length of time? If so, could strong wind gusts cause it to move one way or another? We know others have loitered on the roof because of spray paint and litter. Could one of them have closed it not knowing anyone was in there?

I was under the impression that bipolar disorder, like most medical conditions, falls along a spectrum or scale. It is very well documented on medical sites that psychosis is indeed a symptom for some with this condition. I suggest that you search for more info about it. Try searching university sites or others that cite the criteria outlined in the DSM 4.
 

Newton

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Thank you! Bipolar is more of a MOOD disorder rather than a personality disorder.

They typically don't suffer the complete separation from reality even when manic (such as hallucinations and psychosis)...

And if she were behaving Manic, I don't see why she would kill herself. Mania induces feelings of euphoria. Depression is the state that would drive a bipolar individual to commit suicide. IMO

WRONG. Please do your research.
 

Nickfalzone

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I agree. Dogs didn't indicate Elisa was on the roof during the preliminary searches days after she went missing (Feb 5 I believe?).

So if she accidentally died in the cistern Jan 31st, why would the dogs not indicate her body was in the cistern on Feb 5?

Maybe because her body was NOT in the cistern on Feb 5 when the dogs searched! Maybe she was put in the cistern AFTER the roof top canine search.

And in the state of California police cannot search a hotel room without consent of the patron as technically the room is their property as long as they are paying for it...

If that is what happened, then likely suspects would be either guests that stayed past feb 5th (perhaps dumping on 6 or 7) then left soon after, or a resident that is still living there. Because staying there as a resident indefinitely would put u at more risk, my guess is that a guest is more likely to be responsible. I wonder if the police ever looked up a list of guest departures soon after their rooftop examination.
 

2Hip2BSquare

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Fascinating case -- right up my alley! :)

I&#8217;ve been retired for some time now. However, I used to work in a dual diagnosis department where I specialized in addictive and psychiatric disorders. The elevator video shows Elisa to be having a psychotic episode in a manic (positive symptom) phase. Her grossly exaggerated and repetitive mannerisms, along with her apparently talking to invisible beings (likely suffering from visual and perhaps auditory hallucinations) indicate that. Note that psychosis can be emanating from Elisa&#8217;s own psychopathology and/or induced by drugs (e.g., Ecstasy, LSD).

The distinction between bipolar disorder and schizophrenia is a hazy one even within the psychiatric community. (See explanation of why there is ambiguity at http://www.dnalc.org/view/1252-Differences-Between-Schizophrenia-and-Bipolar-Disorder-1-.html). Hence the confusion for laypeople to judge whether Elisa suffered one or the other, or whether it was comorbid, is understandable. However, given that Elisa appeared to be largely functional and able to carry on ADL (activities of daily life) on her own, it is likely her doctors diagnosed her with bipolar disorder, rather than schizophrenia.

You can read more about the specific symptoms & criteria for these disorders in the industry standard diagnostic & statistical manuals for psychiatry (DSM IV-TR and/or the new DSM V which is due to be out in May 2013; both can be ordered in Amazon.com).

Re: sleepwalking. In my opinion, based solely on the elevator video, it is highly unlikely she is suffering from sleepwalking as sleepwalking generally entails subject doing routine activities such as cooking, eating breakfast or driving a car. Elisa was clearly seen on elevator video to be talking animatedly to something invisible. There was no person/shadow in or outside the elevator apart from Elisa's own. Also it is notable that Elisa leans downward as if she&#8217;s speaking to children. Coincidentally, I had in my past work observed many schizophrenics and schizoaffective patients describe seeing &#8220;little people&#8221; (adults of short stature who are invisible to the non-mentally ill) running about, following and interacting with them. Such imaginings are indicative of visual hallucinations.

Of course her mental condition helps us understand Elisa&#8217;s state of mind in the hours prior to her death, but it need not be the proximate cause of her death. Could be that because her mental state was compromised, someone else took advantage of her.

My primary theory of her cause of death is that Elisa suffered from severe psychosis and she threw her clothes and sandals into the water tank and then dove in for a swim. Her death was unintentional, an accidental death by misadventure.

Elisa was Bipolar II with depression and hypomania. She did not have the type of mania that induces psychosis/schizotypal behavior. She had less severe manic episodes and more prolonged periods of depression.

MOO
 

Montjoy

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Re: the latter - if the murderer needed to hide the body but did not want to risk taking it out of the hotel, they would need to hide it somewhere that the police would not immediately look at.

But there would have been no reason for a perp to think that LE would be immediately looking anywhere for anyone, as Elisa wasn't missing at the time, so there is no reason to justify such an elaborate, risky, and difficult place to hide her body. The effort and risk that would have been required to put her in the tank (and again, I think people are drastically underestimating this) would have been far greater than leaving her in an inconspicuous place on the roof.
 

2Hip2BSquare

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I agree that may be possible with LE. However the coroner works separate from them and is not influenced by LE "preoccupation" in other cases. I think it's telling that there was no foul play ruled by the coroner.

In Los Angeles the office of coroner is a division of the LASD. They don't work separately in LA.

However, there have been recent issues with the coroner and LASD getting akin these days, primarily LASD holding information from the coroner.

http://malibusurfsidenews-blog.blogspot.com/2012/03/lasd-security-hold-on-rodas-death-info.html?m=1

http://crimeseekers.net/forums/show...roner-s-Orders-and-Moved-Richardson-s-Remains

Seems like LASD investigators have a record with not properly preserving evidence for the coroner...
 
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