“Based on the location where the body was found, physical characteristics of the body, clothing found on the body and the physical condition of the body, as well as the absence of any other persons reported missing in the area, we are confident the body we found is that of Naya Rivera,” the Ventura County Sheriff said at a press conference this morning.
Rivera rented a pontoon boat on the lake, which lies inland 100km northeast of Los Angeles, at about 1pm last Wednesday with her son, Josey Hollis Dorsey.
“We know from speaking with her son that he and Naya swam in the lake together at some point during their journey,” the sheriff said today. “It was during that time that her son described being helped into the boat by Naya who boosted him onto the deck from behind. He told investigators that he looked back and saw her disappear under the surface of the water.”
Police have speculated that Rivera saved her son when the pair got caught in a current while swimming.
“There are a lot of currents on the lake that appear particular in the afternoon,” the sheriff said. “We believe it was midafternoon when she disappeared. The idea being perhaps that the boat started drifting, it was unanchored, and that she mustered enough energy to get her son back onto the boat but not enough to save herself.”
When the boat was late to return to the rental company, a leasing agent went searching and found Rivera’s son asleep on board as the boat was adrift on the lake.
Rivera’s body was found today in the same area where she went missing. It floated to the surface of the water after the body filled with gas due to decomposition.
“Detectives from our major crimes bureau began working this case from the onset,” the sheriff said. “Their work on this case revealed there was no indication of foul play and no indication this was a suicide.”
Rivera’s body has been taken to the medical examiner’s office for an autopsy and her dental records will be examined to provide a positive identification.
About 50 sheriff’s personnel, along with a helicopter, boat crews, divers, and unmanned aerial vehicles searched the lake for five hours on the day Rivera went missing. However, the murky water full of plants and debris hampered searchers.
The search resumed on Thursday with the help of Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the US Coast Guard officers.
By the afternoon of the next day the Sheriff announced there was no hope of finding Rivera alive and the rescue mission was now a recovery operation.