Six days after she went missing in a California lake, Naya Rivera has been declared dead by Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub.
The former Glee star was 33 years old.
The official held a press conference on Monday afternoon, a few hours after officials announced they had discovered a body around the area where they presume Rivera had vanished.
“We are confident the body we found is that of Naya Rivera,” Ayub said at this news conference.
“It has been an extremely difficult time for her family throughout this ordeal … our hearts are with them and we share in their grief for Naya’s loss.”
Rivera rented a pontoon boat last Wednesday with her four-year old son, Josey.
A couple hours later, the toddler was discovered alone on the vessel, with the police eventually being called in to determine what happened too Rivera.
Investigators quickly set up an extensive search for the veteran actress, who they believed drowned in a “tragic accident.”
Ayub reiterated this stance on Monday.
The sheriff said that there is no evidence of foul play or suicide and provided a new and important detail in terms of the timeline from last week’s fatal incident.
“[Josey] and Naya swam in the lake together,” Ayub said.
“It was during that time that her son described being helped onto the boat by Naya.”
“He told investigators he looked back and saw her disappear under the surface of the water.”
Along with an adult-sized life jacket, Rivera’s purse, wallet and ID were found on the boat.
Not long after the four-year old was found by himself, authorities scoured the waters with the assistance of dive teams and sonar technology.
This search lasted for days… but the murky conditions of the lake complicated their efforts.
On Monday morning, the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office tweeted that a body had been found in this dangerous body of water.
According to Ayub, the heavy brush made it “very, very difficult” for divers to find the body, with the sheriffexplaining that Rivera “was concealed in some of the shrubbery on the floor bed of the lake.”
As previously detailed, Lake Piru is known for low visibility due to trees and debris along its floor.
Including Rivera, nine people have now drowned there since 1994.
Ayub went on to say that an autopsy will soon be performed and final confirmation of Rivera’s identity will come via dental records.
But he cited “the location where the body was found, physical characteristics of the body, clothing found of the body and the physical condition of the body, as well as the absence of any other persons reported in the area” for why he believes without reservation that this is Naya Rivera.
Captain Eric Buschow, meanwhile, told E! News that Rivera’s Glee “cast members and friends gathered for a prayer at the water’s edge just before the body was found.”
A television writer named Dave Quinn snapped a photo of this gathering, posted it online and wrote as a caption:
This photo of the cast of #Glee gathering together at Lake Piru today where #NayaRivera’s body was found is incredibly powerful.
Especially when you consider today is the 7 year anniversary of Cory Monteith’s death. I’m a mess.
Indeed, Rivera is the third regular Glee cast member to die since the Fox series premiere.
Monteith passed away from a drug overdose, while Mark Salling committed suicide.
Rivera portrayed Santana Lopez, a cheerleader and star glee club member, on the musical comedy, appearing in nearly every episode of hit show’s six-season run.
She was considered a trailblazer for LGBTQ characters.
In 2017, Rivera wrote a love letter to the LGBT community for Billboard, saying:
“I have been so incredibly fortunate to portray a character on television that has meant so much to so many within the LGBTQ community.
“Off screen, I am a woman who stands in support of equal rights for all.
“It has been one of the great blessings in my life to receive such love and touching stories as a result of my portrayal of Santana Lopez in Glee.”
In May of 2019, Rivera reflected on the 10-year anniversary of the prrogram’s premiere with a lengthy post on Instagram, saying she was “so blessed” to have been a part of it.
Following the confirmation of Rivera’s death, stars flocked to social media to express their condolences and share their favorite memories of the actress.
“Rest sweet, Naya. What a force you were,” Tweeted Jane Lynch, who played cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester on the Fox musical comedy.
“Love and peace to your family.”
Added Chris Colfer:
“How can you convey all your love and respect for someone in one post? How can you summarize a decade of friendship and laughter with words alone?
“If you were friends with Naya Rivera, you simply can’t. Her brilliance and humor were unmatched. Her beauty and talent were otherworldly.
“She spoke truth to power with poise and fearlessness.”
“She could turn a bad day into a great day with a single remark. She inspired and uplifted people without even trying. Being close to her was both a badge of honor and a suit of armor.
“Naya was truly one of a kind, and she always will be. Sending all my love to her wonderful family and her beautiful son.”
We’ll continue to update our website with more news and information on this tragedy as the story develops.
For now, perhaps her family can at last have some closure.
May Naya Rivera rest in peace.