The mysterious death of Elisa Lam will be explored in the new Netflix docuseries Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel. Set to debut on Feb. 10, the season will consist of four episodes. The project comes from executive producer and director Joe Berlinger, who is attempting to find out what really happened the day Elisa vanished after he was just as haunted as everyone else on the internet when her story first went viral many years ago.
"As a true crime documentarian, I was fascinated in 2013 when the elevator video of Elisa Lam went viral and legions of amateur detectives used the internet to try to solve the mystery of what happened to her, a 21-year-old Canadian tourist on her first trip to Los Angeles," Berlinger said in a statement. "So, when journalist Josh Dean, who is also a producer on the project, brought us his research into this case, we realized there was as an opportunity to do something different by not just telling the story of Elisa's disappearance, but to create a series that explores a particular location's role in encouraging or abetting crime - or the perception thereof."
Joe Berlinger adds, "My past projects have leaned into individual crimes and criminals, but I have never explored the role a particular location has played in creating an environment in which multiple crimes seemingly take place over and over again. The fact that Elisa disappeared in a location that has a multi-decade history of crimes is what made her case fascinating to me."
Lam, a Canadian college student, was staying at the Cecil Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles when she was reported missing on Jan. 31, 2013. Two weeks later, the LAPD released video surveillance footage of Lam behaving very strangely in one of the hotel's elevators. It was the last known sighting of Lam until her body was later discovered in one of the water tanks on the rooftop of the hotel. With so many questions lingering about the circumstances of her death, there is a variety of theories about what happened to her, ranging from foul play to self-harm.
While Lam's story will be the focus of the first season, the plan at Netflix is for Crime Scene to keep going with other seasons delving into different true crime stories. Executing producing the series alongside Berlinger are Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Justin Wilkes, Sara Bernstein, Jon Doran, Jon Kamen, and Ryan Miller. The project is a collaboration between Imagine Documentaries and RadicalMedia in association with Third Eye Motion Picture Company.
"I'm thrilled to be working with Joe again since our last collaboration on The Ted Bundy Tapes," Wilkes said. "Throughout the series, we'll explore infamous locations that end up becoming accomplices to the crimes themselves and The Cecil Hotel, with its storied history shrouded in mystery and notoriety, felt like the right locale for our first exploration."