NPR : News

Filed Under:

L.A. Hotel Where Body Was Found In Water Tank Has 'Long, Dark History'

Play associated audio

The gruesome discovery this week of a young woman's body inside a rooftop water tank at the Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles is not the Cecil's first brush with such notoriety, as Southern California Public Radio's KPCC reports.

Chris Nichols, associate editor at Los Angeles Magazine, told KPCC about the hotel's "long, dark history."

"There were murders there in the '20s and 30s," he said, "and a woman jumped out a window in the '60s."

"Night Stalker" Richard Ramirez, now on California's death row, was a frequent resident in the 1980s, Nichols said. Back then, KPCC writes, "room rates were as cheap as $14. It's reported that he stayed in a room on the 14th floor while killing 14 people [he was convicted of 13 murders]."

Austrian murderer Jack Unterweger, KPCC adds, also stayed there in the '80s. "He picked up some prostitutes nearby and they ended up dead," Nichols said. The Guardian reminds us that "between 1990 and 1993 Unterweger murdered 11 prostitutes in Vienna, Prague and Los Angeles, strangling them with a self-styled ligature constructed from his victims' bra straps." Unterweger killed himself in an Austrian prison in 1994.

In 2007, new ownership took over the Cecil. A "boutique hotel/youth hostel hybrid" was added to the property. Nichols said he's recommended the Cecil to travelers.

Now, though, there's this week's tale. Here's how The Associated Press begins its latest report about what happened:

"British tourist Michael Baugh and his wife said water had only trickled for days as they brushed their teeth, showered and drank from the taps at the Cecil Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, but they could not have imagined the disturbing reason.

"The body of a Canadian woman was later discovered at the bottom of one of four cisterns on the roof of the historic hotel near Skid Row. The tanks provide water for hotel taps and would have been used by guests for washing and drinking.

" 'The moment we found out, we felt a bit sick to the stomach, quite literally,' Baugh said.

"Los Angeles County Department of Public Health officials were expected to release the results of tests on the water on Thursday."

The body is that of 21-year-old Elisa Lam, who had been staying at the hotel and was last seen on Jan. 31, the AP says. Authorities are investigating her death.

According to the AP, the hotel charges about $65 a night for its rooms.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Peruvians Love Their Chicha Street Art. The Government ... Not So Much

Walk down a street in Peru and you'll likely see an example of the glow-in-the-dark posters and murals. Lots of people love them. But the upper crust — and the government — aren't impressed.
NPR

Tea-Infused Sweets: Chocolate + Jasmine Tea Is A Match Made In Heaven

Smoky and floral brews can provide a kick of flavor to desserts, especially when blended with chocolate. Pastry chef Naomi Gallego shows us a few tricks for surprising the palate with tea.
WAMU 88.5

America's First Ladies

They walk a tricky line: closest adviser to the President of the United States and hostess in chief. A new book examines the evolution of the role of first lady of the United States.

WAMU 88.5

E-Cigarettes and Vaping

Last week, the D.C. Council voted to designate e-cigarettes and "similar vapor products containing nicotine" as tobacco products. That means that their sales tax will jump from the regular 5.75% sales tax to the 70% tax that's tacked onto sales of products like cigarettes and cigars. We explore what this means for the evolving public health debate surrounding e-cigarettes.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.