Elisa Lam's death at the notorious Cecil Hotel 'is no conspiracy,' former manager says: 'Very heartbreaking'

Former General Manager Amy Price appeared in Netflix's 'Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel'As the general manager of the Cecil Hotel, Amy Price was no stranger to death. But Elisa Lam’s was different.

In 2013, the Canadian tourist had been missing for about two weeks when officials at the historic Los Angeles property found her body. The 21-year-old’s decomposing nude corpse was discovered in a water cistern on the hotel roof.

Price, who left the hotel in 2017, has written a memoir, "Behind the Door: The Dark Truths and Untold Stories of the Cecil Hotel." In it, she details her personal experiences with the many guests and residents who found themselves at "America’s Hotel Death" as it’s been nicknamed over the years.

"I didn’t have to agree to have her parents go up to the roof and see where their daughter died," Price explained to Fox News Digital. "Our attorney told us it was our choice. I’m not a mother myself, but it was the right thing to do.


Book cover for Amy Prices memoir Behind the Door

Amy Price has written a new memoir, "Behind the Door: The Dark Truths and Untold Stories of the Cecil Hotel." (William Morrow)

"Today, people still talk about all the conspiracies surrounding Elisa’s death, but they forget a woman was grieving for her daughter," Price shared. "I don’t know if I’ve ever seen somebody in so much pain. And to witness something like that was heartbreaking."

In the book, Price recalled how Lam’s mother fell to the ground and started screaming.

"The pain she felt was palpable and horrible, and I felt so badly for her," Price wrote. "I remember an attorney kneeled beside her and offered words of comfort. Elisa’s dad, meanwhile, was as still as a statue. It was one of those scenes that was very difficult to take in. I felt so sad for the Lams."

According to the book, the hole that had been cut out on the water tank to remove Lam’s body was still visible.

A worker standing on a water tank outside

A worker stands on a water tank on the roof of the Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles Feb. 20, 2013.  (Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)

Previously, guests at the hotel had complained about low water pressure. It prompted a maintenance worker to make the gruesome discovery. Lam was found in one of the four cisterns that provided guests with water for washing and drinking.

Lam’s cause of death was ruled an accident. Her body had no signs of trauma indicating foul play. She also had bipolar disorder. Still, the circumstances surrounding her death sparked numerous conspiracy theories. Several online sleuths feverishly dissected hotel surveillance footage showing Lam. They insisted Lam was a victim of murder or even supernatural activity.

Price stressed there’s no mystery.

"I couldn’t have been more involved with the case from the beginning," Price explained. "I can say 100 percent in confidence that there is no conspiracy to Elisa Lam’s death. I know exactly in my mind what happened because I was there every step of the way. I worked with the police. … I wish there was a little bit more focus on mental illness than the conspiracy theories."

A black and white photo of Elisa Lam smiling and wearing glasses

Elisa Lam previously documented her struggles with anxiety and depression. (AP)

"It’s still very heartbreaking," Price added.

Lam traveled alone to Los Angeles. She intended to travel to Santa Cruz, about 350 miles north of Los Angeles. While Lam originally made a reservation for three nights in a shared room, she was transferred to a private room after her roommates complained about unusual behavior.

Law officials said she tended to use public transportation and had been in touch with her parents daily until she disappeared. Lam had an active blog on Tumblr, where she described her struggles with anxiety and depression.


Surveillance footage showed her inside an elevator pushing buttons and sticking her head out the doors, looking in both directions. The cisterns were located on a platform at least 10 feet above the roof. 

In the book, Price said she called her mother before she called the police after Lam’s body was found because "it was an impulse."

The exterior of the Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles

Amy Price worked at the Cecil Hotel for a decade. (Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)

"The phone was ringing before I’d fully decided to call her," she wrote. "I think I just wanted to tell somebody who loved me what was going on. … I called one of the homicide detectives who’d camped out watching the video footage for days. He didn’t answer. I called two or three more times, and then I finally dialed 911."

According to the book, investigators said Lam was on medication but had stopped taking it. They also learned that, off her medication, she was prone to paranoia and hiding. 

"I have thought a billion times about Elisa Lam going into the water tank and what it would have taken for her to get out," Price wrote in her book. "Being a very good swimmer myself, I know it would have taken for her to get out. … It was nearly impossible. She would have to go all the way to the bottom, empty her lungs and then spring up fast and shoot out of the water and grab the side of the open tank. There would not have been a ladder to grab since the tank is not designed for people to be on the inside.

"She must have been so scared when she realized she wasn’t going to be able to do that," Price added. "I imagine that she must have screamed, and even though there were hundreds of people in the building just below, nobody would have heard her. That’s the part that I find most haunting."

Richard Ramirez sneering in between two men in court

The Cecil Hotel was once the occasional home of serial killer Richard Ramirez. (Getty Images)


The $65-a-night Cecil Hotel was built in the 1920s. It’s located a few blocks from Skid Row, where efforts at gentrification often clash with homelessness and crime.


It had once been the occasional home of infamous serial killers such as Richard Ramirez, known as the Night Stalker, and Jack Unterweger. The Austrian prison author was convicted of murdering nine prostitutes in Europe and the U.S., the Los Angeles Times reported.

The Cecil Hotel also has ties to the Black Dahlia murder involving Elizabeth Short, one of the most famous unsolved cases in American history. According to reports, Short allegedly visited the bar at the Cecil shortly before she was killed in 1947 at age 22.

A black and white headshot of Elizabeth Short

Elizabeth Short, known as the Black Dahlia, was murdered in 1947. She was 22. (Getty Images)

Price said, following Lam’s death, she was approached by Netflix to participate in a documentary about the hotel’s history. Price claimed she wasn’t aware that the true-crime docuseries, "Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel," would primarily focus on Lam’s case. A spokesperson for the streaming giant didn’t immediately respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment. The special is still available for streaming.

A sign advertising rooms for rent at the Cecil Hotel

The Cecil Hotel, built in 1924, has been the scene of at least 15 murders and suicides over the years. (Mark Ralston/AFP via Getty Images)

"Through all the years, no one who worked at the hotel ever made any comments," said Price. "When the opportunity came, I thought, ‘I’m not working there anymore. It would be nice to clear the air.’ I thought I was doing people a favor by just clarifying what happened on our end. The interview was quite a long one and a lot of it was so severely cut. … They cut out all the emotions [I experienced].

"I just felt like they didn’t give me a chance to be more human," Price alleged. "There wasn’t too much of me showing how much I did care for the hotel and how hard those times were for everyone. I just wanted to explain what had happened."


According to Price, employees at the Cecil Hotel have been scrutinized by online sleuths and even accused of attempting to cover up Lam’s death or edit the surveillance footage. Once the docuseries became available for streaming, some viewers took to social media and questioned Price’s claims.

Price stressed she simply wanted to share her side of the story in hopes it would debunk the conspiracy theories.

fighterfighters removing a body outside the Cecil Hotel

Firefighters leave the Cecil Hotel after Elisa Lam's body was discovered. Amy Price hopes the property can be transformed into a place of healing for those in need.  (Reuters/Jonathan Alcorn)

"I wasn’t prepared for the backlash that I did receive because I’d never gone on TV before," Price admitted. "I didn’t know what to expect, but I certainly wasn’t expecting that. … I was completely blindsided.

"I took my role [as manager] very seriously," Price shared. "Everyone who worked at the hotel became like family to me. … I don’t know if people really even focus on the tenants. I think people focus on the tragedies that happen to the tenants. And I know people are intrigued by mystery.

"[The hotel’s long history with death] is directly related to the area. It’s a high concentration of people that are not thriving in the world. It’s a mix of mental illness, drug use and hitting rock bottom. … These were people trying to make money, trying to survive."


Price said she often thinks about the Cecil Hotel’s future.

"Right now, they are filling it up with homeless people," she said. "It does have 600 rooms. I hope that they can offer a home to people or people can get some help. I would like for it to be turned into a place where people could heal. That would be the best thing to happen to the Cecil. … Everyone deserves a chance."

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