There are few, if any solid conclusions in this case, mostly pie-in-the-sky speculation. But let's put on our thinking caps and try for a slice of that pie anyway.
This case haunts me. Elisa Lam is like the little sister of a close friend. She's from my town and she's from a culture that I recognize and am closely familiar with. My parents used to eat at her parent's restaurant. And as I mentioned, she's buried in the same cemetery as my young uncle, the same uncle who, with his brother, introduced me to Metallica and AC/DC and Slayer at a time when I was too young to realize that music got any worse than that. I never knew her and would never have in life, but this death hits close to home. I want to know what happened. I want to solve it. And if anybody is responsible I want them found, exposed and punished.
But that's the thing, we don't know if anybody else was involved.
Watch the video again, her face shows no signs of distress, nothing to indicate she feared imminent harm. Watch the part of the video when she steps outside the elevator. For starters, if she was hiding and truly feared being found, she wouldn't have stepped out of the elevator in the first place. She's acting like someone who is hiding that wants to be found or at the very least, doesn't fear being found. She peeks her head out the door and looks both ways in a noticeable fashion. She hides again, then takes cute, shuffling little steps toward the exit and watches the hallway, then hops out hoping to surprise someone. Then she playfully crab-walks in and back out of the elevator again.
The next moment on the video is the one that is truly bizarre. She goes back into the elevator and pushes all the buttons again, I suppose hoping to jam it up. Some speculate that she does this to prevent someone chasing her from using the elevator to catch up to her by sending it on a random journey. But again, she shows no signs of serious distress at being found.
Immediately after she makes the seemingly bizarre hand gestures, she counts to three. This is the most obvious part of the video but it took quite a few plays before I caught it. She is calling out and counting to three on the fingers of her left hand. She even bends her knees when she touches her fingers, the way one would when playfully doing so.
But after she counts to three and no one appears, she looks both ways down the hall, then plays with her again before walking off, never to be seen alive again.
The question then becomes, if she was playing hide-and-seek in the video with an unseen party, why did that person not come forward before or after her body was found? Is it possible that she wasn't actually playing hide-and-seek with anybody, that her play friend was a hallucination? That's a stretch but it's possible.
I wonder about why 54 seconds were edited out of the elevator footage. I've got a couple ideas of why that might be. Either it shows nothing interesting, just an empty hallway and so was chopped out as unimportant, or it shows somebody else, somebody unconnected to the disappearance who just happened to be walking by. If the latter is the case, then that could help explain why Elisa walked away form the elevator at the end of the video as seemingly disappointed or dare I say somewhat embarrassed as she appeared to be. She was calling out, counting to three, her friend didn't re-appear, but somebody else did. In the final analysis though, these ideas are all just speculation. Still, the case haunts me.
I saw a recent news report that police were looking into two hotel employees as possible suspects in Lam's murder, but the source is dubious and I haven't seen a follow-up.
|Carmen Yarira Esparza Noriega|
I've barely scratched the surface here. I haven't talked about the Cecil Hotel's checkered history, which includes multiple suicides and stays by serial killers including Richard Ramirez. There are many low income long-term residents of the hotel at least one of which is a well-known sex offender who was a resident at the hotel at the time of Elisa's disappearance. He was on many videos about the case including one on CNN, and the news either failed to mention or didn't realize just who they were talking to. Apparently he was one of the most vocal residents to complain about the water. At the time, the hotel was facing possible re-zoning and he had a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. There is speculation that he and another long-term resident acting as his accomplice staged the murder, but I don't buy it.
Elisa was a real person, a beautiful girl with self-image problems who battled depression and felt isolated in her own active mind. Many if not all young people feel depressed or self-conscious, I wish I could have been there to tell her that it's perfectly normal to feel that way, at any age. But I can't.
It's impossible to list all the sources, but here were some of the major ones.
Elisa Lam's tumblr blog
Elisa Lam's blogspot
The autopsy report
Yelp listing for Cecil Hotel
Current Yelp listing for renamed Stay on Main hotel
Crisis Forums (a terrific active chat about the Lam case)
Websleuths translation of Chinese forum about Lam
The case of Carmen Yarira Esparza Noriega: