Jul 13, 2020
Ventura Sheriff Press Conference Transcript on Death of ‘Glee’ Actress Naya Rivera
‘Glee’ actress Naya Rivera was found dead by Ventura county officials on July 13 in Lake Piru. Read the full transcript of the Ventura sheriff’s press conference here.
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Speaker 1: (00:00)
Of the search operation for Naya Rivera. And as you know this morning, we recovered a body out of the lake. To provide some detailed information about this entire operation and overview of what’s gone on in the last six days, I would like to introduce sheriff Bill Ayub, the sheriff of Ventura County. And he will discuss this further.
Bill Ayub: (00:29)
Good afternoon. Thank you for being here with us today. As you know, since last Wednesday, we’ve been here at Lake Piru, searching for Naya Rivera who was reported missing. Each day we have utilized dozens of personnel on watercraft and helicopters with unmanned aerial systems and on shore conducting a methodical and comprehensive search. Today our search teams have recovered a body in the lake. 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. She was found in a Northeastern portion of the lake near the surface of the water. The depth of the water in that area is between 35 and 60 feet deep, and there’s heavy brush and trees on the lake bed there.
Bill Ayub: (01:41)
As you can imagine, it has been an extremely difficult time for her family throughout this ordeal. As fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters, our hearts are with them and we share in their grief for Naya’s loss. We’ve been in direct contact with the family throughout this entire time, and we’ve kept them updated on the progress of our search efforts throughout. Our hearts also go out to Naya’s many friends and fans who have been holding out hope for the best over the past few days. Detectives from our major crimes bureau began working this case from the onset. Their work on this case revealed there was no indication of foul play and no indication this was a suicide. Moving forward, Naya’s body is being taken to the Ventura County medical examiners’ office in Ventura where an autopsy will be performed and a positive identification will be made through the examination of dental records.
Bill Ayub: (02:44)
And just to share with you a recap of this incident and our response to it, on July 8th, 2020 last Wednesday, Naya Rivera came to Lake Piru and rented a pontoon boat at the dock. She and her four year old son left the dock at approximately 1:00 PM and headed toward the Northern portion of the lake. We identified specific areas they visited that day by looking at the shoreline features in the background of FaceTime videos when she was chatting with family members, while out on the lake. We know from speaking with her son that he and Naya swam in the lake together at some point during their journey. 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.
Bill Ayub: (03:44)
Naya’s son was later found asleep on the boat, which was a drift in the Northern portion of the lake known as the narrows when a leasing agent searched for the watercraft, which was overdue for return. The young boy was wearing a life vest when he was found and he was wrapped in a towel. An adult sized life vest was found on the boat. Several witnesses who were at the lake that day have been identified and interviewed by Sheriff’s investigators. There were three other rental boats on the lake that day. All of the people in each of those boats has been identified and interviewed. They had seen Naya’s boat at different times and in several different locations during the window of time she was out on the lake. Those witness statements helped our teams focus their search in the Northern and Eastern portions of the lake. We received a call at 4:38 PM on Wednesday.
Bill Ayub: (04:42)
Rangers at Lake Piru began searching the lake immediately. Our deputies arrived by 5:00 PM, followed by one of our helicopters and an unmanned aircraft team, investigators and a boat crew with divers. By early Thursday morning, we received assistance from several neighboring law enforcement agencies. Naya’s family has expressed their gratitude to all those involved in the search efforts. And we would like to thank our partner agencies for their help in this search effort. Without their assistance, we could not have covered as large an area as quickly as we did. The following agencies provided personnel equipment and expertise to this complex search effort. The Lake Piru Rangers, the Ventura County fire department, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s department, the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s office, the Tulare County Sheriff’s office, United States coast guard, forward operating base point Mugu, and the California governor’s office of emergency services.
Bill Ayub: (05:48)
We also received support from Fugro geo-data services. This company completed a detailed survey and mapping mission at the lake just three weeks earlier, in advance of the upcoming seismic retrofitting of the Santa Felicia dam at the South end of the lake. They heard about the disappearance of Naya and offered their personnel and equipment and expertise to help locate her. Their detailed maps of the lake, along with their comprehensive knowledge of the lake have given a major boost to this search effort, and we thank them for their assistance. That concludes my comments. And I am available with my team here to answer any questions that you may have.
Speaker 3: (06:31)
Do you have anybody that can speak in Spanish for us?
Bill Ayub: (06:33)
We do. We do have Spanish language available.
Speaker 4: (06:35)
Do you believe she was in that location the whole time, or do you believe that she floated to the top because of decomposition?
Speaker 5: (06:43)
Sheriff, you could kindly step behind the close of the mic?
Bill Ayub: (06:47)
Sure. We do believe she was in that area when she went swimming, based on our conversations with her son, the information that we had from the witnesses in the area. The search effort had been focused in that area. As I mentioned, there’s heavy brush, 15 to 20 feet in height that had grown when the lake was dryer. That was an empty Canyon, a tributary into the lake itself. And so you had a lot of growth that sprung up there. When the lake refilled with water, that growth remained and made it very, very difficult for divers, for sonar operators, and for searchers to search that area. We did focus on that area. We had our entire dive team scouring that area yesterday, and they were not able to find her. We believe she was concealed within some of the shrubbery on the floor bed of the lake.
Speaker 4: (07:37)
Did she float to the top though? So she came cam to the surface?
Bill Ayub: (07:40)
Speaker 4: (07:41)
Bill Ayub: (07:41)
Speaker 6: (07:42)
Any indication of injury or tears to her clothing that may provide some insight to what happened?
Bill Ayub: (07:48)
There is a detailed examination of the body yet to take place, but the initial examination from the medical examiners’ office does not reveal anything that makes us suspect there’s any sort of foul play involved.
Speaker 3: (08:00)
Sheriff, based on the information, you would have said this [inaudible 00:08:06] she did not fall off the boat, she went for a swim?
Bill Ayub: (08:08)
She went for a swim with her son. That’s correct.
Speaker 7: (08:11)
Life jacket, sheriff?
Bill Ayub: (08:13)
The body does not have a life jacket. There was an adult sized life jacket in the pontoon boat that she had rented.
Speaker 4: (08:21)
Which agency… Was it one of the search and rescue or your PCSO dive boat that found her today?
Bill Ayub: (08:28)
It was rescuers involved with the operation. The individuals that happened to find her today were Lake Piru park rangers.
Speaker 8: (08:34)
What was the position of the body this morning when you found the body?
Bill Ayub: (08:42)
The condition or position?
Speaker 8: (08:45)
The position and condition, both.
Bill Ayub: (08:47)
I’m sorry, you’re saying condition?
Speaker 8: (08:48)
Position and condition.
Bill Ayub: (08:49)
The body was floating near the surface of the water.
Speaker 8: (08:52)
Facing up? Facing down?
Bill Ayub: (08:53)
I don’t have the specific information as to whether the body was facing up or down. The body looked as though it had been in the water for several days.
Speaker 7: (09:03)
Were there any indications of family or friends whether she knew how to swim?
Bill Ayub: (09:07)
I don’t have that information. I am sorry.
Speaker 4: (09:11)
What time did they find her again? I’m sorry I know you said it. What time was it this morning?
Speaker 1: (09:17)
About 10 after nine [crosstalk 00:09:17]
Bill Ayub: (09:19)
Speaker 7: (09:20)
Sheriff, the sign over there says, no swimming. So is swimming allowed here or not?
Bill Ayub: (09:26)
Swimming is allowed in this lake. And what we see at this lake is typically watercraft recreation, not a whole lot of swimming, but it is allowed.
Speaker 7: (09:37)
The sign says no swimming.
Bill Ayub: (09:39)
That’s right here at the pier near the dock.
Speaker 9: (09:41)
Can you tell us anything abut her family’s visit to the lake this afternoon? Her family’s visit?
Bill Ayub: (09:48)
Her family has been at the lake every day holding out hope and communicating with our investigators and our staff. We’ve been in constant communication with them. We’ve given them information before making it publicly available.
Speaker 9: (10:00)
And the visit today, we saw them lead the boat. Believing it’s due to her parents?
Bill Ayub: (10:02)
Yes, that’s right.
Speaker 9: (10:05)
They were just taken out to see where she was found?
Bill Ayub: (10:08)
Speaker 6: (10:11)
The state of the body in terms of decomposition in reports to the last five days, how much does that complicate the feature autopsy?
Bill Ayub: (10:20)
The medical examiner is trained and well prepared to examine bodies in various states from burning to water damage, to advanced decomposition. It does complicate things a little bit. In this case, there’s decomposition that takes place as natural process. It’s actually part of the reason we were able to find her today. The body fills with gas, becomes more buoyant and then surfaces on its own. So I don’t anticipate there will be any problems conducting a postmortem autopsy.
Speaker 3: (10:50)
Sheriff, you indicated that according to your knowledge, she went for a swim with her son. Do we know he was able to make it back in from the boat and how come she didn’t, if that is the case?
Bill Ayub: (11:03)
It would be speculation to say at this point. There are a lot of currents on the lake that appear particularly in the afternoon. We believe it was mid-afternoon when she disappeared. The idea of perhaps being 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.
Speaker 3: (11:23)
Do we know it was a fact that the son went into the water?
Bill Ayub: (11:26)
Yeah. The son was in the water, yes.
Speaker 3: (11:32)
We can get somebody to talk to us in Spanish? Interpret in Spanish?
Bill Ayub: (11:34)
We do have a Spanish interpreter.
Speaker 6: (11:39)
Are there ladders on those rental boats? I can’t [inaudible 00:11:40]
Bill Ayub: (11:41)
There are [crosstalk 00:11:41] there are ladders on the boats, yes. They’re designed for swimming. [crosstalk 00:11:45]
Speaker 1: (11:47)
Bill Ayub: (11:47)
Speaker 1: (11:47)
Bill Ayub: (11:47)
All right. Thank you very much.
Speaker 1: (11:49)
Thank you everybody. That concludes the press conference.