Police said Monday that they were “confident” that the body discovered earlier this morning in California’s Lake Piru was former “Glee” star Naya Rivera.
Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub told reporters that the medical examiner would make an official diagnosis and that an autopsy would be done. The Rivera family has been informed of the finding.
Ayub added that there was “no sign of foul play and no suggestion of suicide.”
The body was discovered at the northeast corner of the lake above the top of the mud, five days after the 33-year-old Rivera had died. Her 4-year-old friend, Josey, was found sleeping and alone on a rented pontoon boat on July 8.
Once the ship failed to return on Wednesday, the ship was discovered to be floating in the north end of the lake with the boy unconscious on board. According to the police, the dealer informed the prosecutors that the boy and his mother were swimming. The boy climbed back into the plane, but he didn’t.
The child was wearing a life jacket, and another life jacket was discovered in the boat along with Rivera ‘s identity. Her car was found in a parking lot. Josey, the son of Rivera’s ex-husband, actor Ryan Dorsey, is “in good shape,” the authorities have subsequently reported.
The authorities said the next day that they suspected Rivera had died and that the search operation had been a recovery.
According to Ayub, the water “is between 35 and 60 feet deep” in the field where the body was discovered, “and there are thick bushes and trees on the lake shore.”
Low visibility was a factor in the time it took the authorities to identify her remains. Captain Eric Buschow of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office had earlier told Fox News that the crew had stopped their search operations at 10 p.m. July 8 regardless of the gloomy weather.
“Our divers could see little and it was getting dangerous for them,” he said at the time. The hunt stopped every day after sundown before her body was found on Monday.
According to Ayub, Josey told the investigators that his mother helped him get back on the plane. Instead he turned back and saw her vanish into the sea.
“It would be imagination to know at this stage,” Ayub said about what may have happened. “There are a lot of waves on the lake that get up here, particularly in the afternoon. We think it was mid-afternoon when she vanished. Maybe the hope was that the boat was beginning to sink, and that she had collected enough strength to get her son back on the shore, but not enough to save herself.”
The sheriff said that Rivera ‘s family “expressed their thanks to all those engaged in the search.”
“As you might understand, the entire thing has been an incredibly painful time for her family,” Ayub said. “As brothers , sisters, children, and daughters, our hearts are with them, and we share in their sorrow at Naya ‘s absence. We’ve been in close touch with the family all this time, and we’ve kept them up-to – date with the success of our quest efforts all over the world. Our hearts always go out to Naya’s many friends and supporters who have been holding out hope for the better over the past few days.”
Rivera is best known for portraying Santana Lopez on the Fox Television show “Glee” between 2009 and 2015. Santana was a cheerleader in musical comedy and appeared in 113 episodes. Santana was one of the many LGBTQ characters on the series.
“Naya Rivera was a fearsome beauty with so much left to do, and this is such a horrible disaster. We are forever grateful for the indelible commitment she has made to ‘Glee,’ from the first season to the last, “said 20th Century Fox TV and Fox Television in a statement by The Associated Press.
A native of Santa Clarita, California, Rivera started performing at age 4, appearing in “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” “Family Matters” and “The Bernie Mac Show.”
She auditioned for her part as Santana Lopez, singing Destiny’s Child’s Love. The pilot gave her no speaking lines.
Rivera played a supporting character — a mean cheerleader with blistering put-downs — in the first season of the series, but became a main star in the second season when she refused to expose the sexual orientation of her character. Several on social media praised her performance with helping them feel better about their own sexuality.
“It would be an understatement to say that ‘Glee’ has changed my life. It’s kept me out of debt. It helped me improve my career. Even before the show, I’d never seen a group of friends with whom I felt so close,” she wrote in her 2016 autobiography, “Sorry Not Sorry: Nightmares, Mistakes, even Growing Up.”
“So while ‘Glee’ transformed our life, it didn’t inherently transform who we were. We began the series with a ragtag group of misfits, and six seasons on, when we filmed the final episode, we were all the same batch of misfits. Now we’re sporting more fashionable denim.”
The news of her assumed death came seven years to the day after Cory Monteith died at the age of 31.
Following the show, Rivera found recognition in film and music. In 2014, she made her feature film debut “At the Devil ‘s Door,” portraying a woman trapped in the middle of mysterious activities, and in 2013 she released the song “Sorry” featuring rapper Big Sean, her one-time fiance.
Rivera and Dorsey ended their divorce in June 2018 after nearly four years of marriage. In her autobiography, she wrote that her son was “my biggest achievement, and I’m never going to do any better than him.”