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Unsolved murders at LA’s infamous Cecil Hotel heads to Netflix

The true crime case went viral when LAPD released bizarre security video of the woman in hopes of finding her killer

By Christie D’Zurilla
Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES — The Cecil Hotel, a notorious downtown L.A. landmark known for its disturbing history of suicides, deaths and violence, is going Hollywood, via Netflix’s “Crime Scene.” The streamer dropped a teaser trailer for the upcoming true-crime series Tuesday.

“Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel” will focus on the disappearance of 21-year-old Elisa Lam, a Canadian tourist who went missing in 2013 at the tourist and residential hotel on Main Street near Skid Row.

“What do you think people imagine when they picture the Cecil Hotel?,” a man asks in the trailer. A former hotel manager replies: “‘Is there a room here that maybe somebody hasn’t died in?’ I never got used to that. Never got used to that.”

The Cecil is tagged “Hotel Death” and noted for its “dark persona,” which has included far more than its share of suicides and crimes.

Another woman says in the trailer, “This is a place where serial killers let their hair down. Like Richard Ramirez [the Night Stalker], who would come back covered in blood, and no one’s got a problem with that.”

The series appears to focus on surveillance footage released by the LAPD in 2013 showing Lam behaving bizarrely in and around an elevator. That footage, which shows her pushing buttons for multiple floors and stepping out of the elevator, waving her arms, was the source of much international speculation at the time she went missing, and afterward.

The video went viral on a Chinese video site, where it got more than 3 million views and 40,000 comments in a 10-day span.

Amateur sleuths homed in on the case, posting theories about what might have happened to the young woman. International media outlets, particularly in Canada and China, continued their coverage of the story even after Lam’s body was found.

Regular readers of The Times might remember where Lam’s body was found, though we won’t spoil that here for viewers who want the story to unfold for them starting Feb. 10 on Netflix.

This isn’t the first project inspired by the Hotel Cecil and events that have happened on-site. It was the spark behind Season 5 of “American Horror Story,” subtitled “Hotel.” A Sony Pictures feature project about the Lam disappearance, titled “The Bringing,” was written in 2014 and went into pre-production in 2016, according to IMDb Pro, but found itself in turnaround months later despite having actor Michael Peña attached.

By 2015, the hotel, which was built in the 1920s, was running a portion of itself as a hostel called Stay on Main, though that wasn’t the end of its suicides. The next year, a $100-million overhaul of the former den of prostitution and drugs was announced by a developer from New York City, but that has yet to happen.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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