Naya Rivera, 'Glee' Star, Dead at 33 After Body Recovered From Lake Piru
By Desiree Murphy and Jennifer Drysdale
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Naya Rivera, best known for playing Santana Lopez on Glee, has died. The Ventura County Sheriff's Office confirmed on Monday that they recovered the actress' body from Lake Piru after she went missing last Wednesday. She was 33.
"Today our search teams have recovered a body in the lake. Based on the location of where the body was found, physical characteristics of the body, clothing found on the body and physical condition of the body, as well as the absence of any other persons missing in the area, we are confident the body we found is that of Naya Rivera," Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub said. "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."
'We know from speaking with her son that he and Naya swam in the lake together at some point during their journey," he continued. "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."
Ayub shared that it's been an extremely difficult time for Rivera's family.
"Our hearts are with them and we share in their grief," he said. "We’ve been in direct contact with the family and kept them updated on our search efforts throughout. Our thoughts go out to Naya's friends and fans who have been holding out hope."
Ayub said that there "was no indication of foul play, and no indication that this was a suicide," adding that the Ventura County Medical Examiner's Office will perform a formal autopsy at a later time. ET has reached out to Rivera's rep for comment.
ET reported last week that Rivera had gone missing on the afternoon of July 8 after renting a boat at Lake Piru in the Los Padres National Forest in Ventura County, California, with her 4-year-old son, Josey. Josey was found in the boat by himself, and reportedly told authorities that he and Rivera were swimming, but she never got back into the boat. Officials immediately began a search for Rivera with the use of helicopters, drones and dive teams.
An eyewitness told ET at the time that they saw Rivera and her son renting the boat around 1 p.m. local time.
"It was a beautiful day. It was comfortable weather and there were other pontoon boats in the water and even a water skier," the eyewitness said. "She looked like any other mother with her son going out to enjoy the day."
Rivera and her ex-husband, Ryan Dorsey, welcomed Josey in 2015, about a year after they got married in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Rivera filed for divorce from Dorsey in November 2016, but their divorce wasn't finalized until June 2018.
Rivera's last social media post (shared five days ago) was a photo of herself spending quality time with Josey. "Just the two of us," she captioned the sweet pic.
In a 2016 interview with ET, Rivera opened up about how motherhood had become her No. 1 priority.
"I'm a mom now, and what I love more than acting is being Josey's mom. So, I want to be here for him. And I don't want to miss anything," she said. "I'm going to navigate the right way to do that."
Rivera was born in Santa Clarita, California, and began her career as a child model, prior to landing her first big acting role at four years old on the ‘90s sitcom The Royal Family. She went on to land a small recurring role on Family Matters, and made guest appearances on other hit shows including The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Baywatch, Smart Guy, The Bernie Mac Show, Girlfriends, 8 Simple Rules, and CSI Miami.
In 2009, Rivera landed her beloved role as Santana Lopez on Glee. The series became a hit, earning a Golden Globe Award, a SAG Award, a People’s Choice Award and multiple GLAAD Awards. The cast was also nominated for three GRAMMY Awards.
After Glee came to an end in 2015, Rivera landed a recurring spot on the ABC comedy-drama Devious Maids. Her most recent acting credit was on the series Step Up: High Water.
"It's just such a good binge-watch," she said of the latter in an interview with ET in 2019. "When the first season came out, I was Googling at midnight, like, 'Where is it?'" she recalled. "I was texting everyone and then watched it all within, like, two days. It was so good."