Someone requested me to write on Naya Rivera’s death. Many people do not believe Naya accidentally drowned; they believe she was murdered.
I realize this was an open and shut case for the authorities, but that really doesn’t mean much to me!
After communicating back and forth, I agreed to write on Naya because they make some good points on her death, and I’m always leery of “accidental drownings.”
The Untimely Death of “Glee” Star Naya Rivera
LOS ANGELES — “Glee” star Naya Rivera, 33, disappeared on July 8, 2020, while boating on California’s Lake Piru with her son, Josey Dorsey, age 4.
Rivera and Josey arrived at the lake around 1 p.m. and rented a pontoon boat for three hours, the minimum amount of time that could be purchased.
Initial reports say another boater found the pontoon boat drifting with Josey alone and asleep inside. Others say a lake employee found him when Rivera had not returned the pontoon boat when it was due back at 4 pm.
Josey was wearing his life jacket. The boat was not anchored.
At first, authorities said that the only items found on the pontoon boat were an adult life jacket and the white sack Naya had with her. They later said they found needles containing a pink substance, three cans of 12-ounce cans of White Claw, her purse, and identification.
There was one empty White Claw can, another one about three-quarters full, and a third unopened can.
Authorities never revealed what the pink substance was in the needles.
Rivera and Josey intended to have a barbecue at Lake Piru, and the police found charcoal in Naya’s vehicle. Instead, they rented the boat.
Josey later told investigators that he and Naya went swimming, and after she helped him back onto the boat, she cried out for help and disappeared beneath the water.
Authorities found Rivera’s body five days later, on July 13, in Diablo Cove at Lake Piru. Authorities identified her through dental records.
In September 2020, authorities released details from the autopsy. It was at this time that the authorities’ version of what happened had changed a bit.
Now they said, “She helped him onto the boat and he then heard [Naya] yell ‘help’ and she put her arm in the air. She then disappeared into the water.”
According to officials, there was no evidence of foul play on Rivera’s body, and her body was consistent with drowning.
The autopsy report revealed that the 33-year-old Rivera had previous problems with vertigo, had a recent sinus infection, and had a small amount of prescribed amphetamines in her system, but did not identify physical conditions or drugs as factors in her death.
Toxicology tests also showed she had small, therapeutic amounts of the anti-anxiety drug diazepam and the appetite suppressant phentermine in her system.Andrew Dalton, Associated Press, September 11, 2020.
She also had a BAC of 0.016, which is not high enough to be considered impaired or legally drunk.
Ventura County Sheriff’s Office released video footage of Rivera’s last moments at the lake shortly after her disappearance.
The group, Justice for Naya, claims an attack takes place on the pontoon boat before it leaves the dock and can be seen on the video.
While it does appear something to that effect is happening, it’s hard to tell because this video is possibly a recording of the official video released to the media.
Lake Piru is located in Los Padres National Forest in Ventura County, California, roughly 55 miles northwest of Los Angeles.
Between 1994 and 2020, seven drownings occurred at the lake.
Immediately after Rivera disappeared, supporters started a petition calling for Lake Piru to post warning signs for swimmers.
According to People Magazine, the petition reached over 25,000 petitioners in one day.
Supporters started another petition on Rivera’s behalf to get authorities to search on land instead of Lake Piru exclusively.
Naya’s Sister and Ex-Husband Move In Together
In September 2020, Rivera’s younger sister, Nickayla Rivera, 25, and Ryan Dorsey, 37, moved in together to raise Josey. It’s unclear why they could not raise Josey together while living separately.
People on social media went into a frenzy accusing the two of being lovers and having a hand in Rivera’s death.
Dorsey and Nickayla Rivera each posted on social media to explain the situation. Dorsey spoke in a 12-minute video on his Instagram account.
“I don’t get good sleep. I’m sad every day,” he said in a Sept. 29 video on Instagram. “I go to sleep sad. Every night I’m staring at the ceiling and … I think to myself how lucky I am to still have my mom, to have her help out in my life still, and then I think about how [Josey] won’t have that same opportunity.
“And to have a young woman who is his blood and tití, who is willing to put her life on hold and sacrifice things, uproot her situation for the betterment of your child so when you put your child to bed, you don’t always have to be alone with your thoughts,″ he continued.
Nickayla Rivera released this statement on her Instagram account.
Rivera was laid to rest in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Los Angeles, CA.
True Crime Diva’s Thoughts
After Naya disappeared, I felt suspicious circumstances were surrounding her disappearance and ultimate death.
I watched the video over and over when the police first released it, looking for something more sinister. Of course, I am a true crime blogger.
So, when the group, Justice for Naya, contacted me and requested I write on her death, I jumped at it. If you know me at all, then you know I am cautious of accidental drownings.
With that being said, I will be honest with my analysis.
I studied the full video over and over and over, second by second, frame by frame. I watched the enhanced videos (the group sent me more than one video, but I used only one for this article), and I took and cropped screenshots.
I am not convinced foul play was involved while the boat was at the dock. However, I do question a lot of things regarding the pontoon boat.
The Pontoon Boat
Why were three men (one is later seen with a dog) standing on and near Naya’s boat as she is pulling in to the parking lot? What are they doing? Were they preparing it for Naya’s rental? Did she call ahead to reserve a boat? That doesn’t seem likely because she had planned on having a barbecue at the lake.
Why is the man in black and the man in white on the boat for over 5 minutes? Technically, the man in white does not get on the boat but he stands next to it the entire time. They claimed they were giving Naya a life jacket? Does it really take that long to hand someone a life jacket? 😉
The Justice for Naya peeps believe that a conversation takes place before Naya is attacked. I’m sure there was, but I cannot say that it was a hostile conversation.
The Justice for Naya peeps also believe that the man in black stays on the boat when it pulls away from the dock, but I don’t think he does. In their enhanced video, you can see him jump out of the boat when Josey does, and then he unhooks the rope (I think it’s called a dock line, but not sure) from the dock. The boat pulls away soon after. The group thinks that Josey alone jumps out of the boat after his mother is first “attacked.”
You can see around the 0:35 mark the man in black is out of the boat and unties it from the dock. At least, that is what it looks like to me. From 0:41 to the end of the video, it looks like the man in black to me.
You see Naya (she’s first), Josey, and the man in white walking single file toward the pontoon boat in the picture on the left below. The picture on the right is the man in black standing next to the man in white after walking away from the pontoon. At first, I thought maybe it was Josey because it appears the person is a lot smaller, but I think it’s the man in black (so he’s not on the boat), and the image is just distorted from enhancement.
You can clearly see the difference between the two. But I could be wrong. You can view the video and decide for yourself. This is just my opinion.
I’ll tell you what is odd. After the boat leaves the dock, it stops and moves during the following time frames: 12:25 – 13:02; barely moving at 13:03; boat stops again at 13:17; barely moving at 13:35; boat stops again at 13:38; barely moves but picks up speed at 14:15. What the heck is going on?
I think someone edited the original video, maybe the authorities. There appears to be at least one “jump” in it.
A witness came forward after Naya’s body was found, claiming that she saw Naya and Josey get on the pontoon boat and that Naya seemed like a normal mother about to have a good time with her son. However, there are no other visitors at the docks; Naya and Josey are the only ones. So, is she lying? Why?
Police said they interviewed all of the witnesses who were on the lake simultaneously as Naya, yet not one of these witnesses saw her drown, even though she allegedly cried for help.
Throughout the 15-minute video, the only other person you can see on the lake is a person on a jet ski. People were suspicious of this person (myself included), and even the authorities stated they wanted to speak with this person. It’s unclear if they ever came forward, but I would assume so because the police said they spoke with everyone on the lake.
Around 3 pm, Naya was on FaceTime with a relative while she and Josey were on the boat. The police did not release the video to the public. Why? The relative gave it to the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office, and authorities said they used the video to determine Naya’s location. So, show us.
Now, if she did, in fact, FaceTime with her family, then we can rule out that she was attacked at the dock. But there is still an additional 90 minutes unaccounted for – 3 pm to 4:30 pm when the boat was found.
If no one witnessed her drowning, then it is possible that no one witnessed a crime take place.
News Conference July 13, 2020
At a press conference held on July 13, 2020, authorities announced they had recovered Naya’s body from the lake. A reporter asked if the pontoon boat had a ladder, to which the police replied, “There are ladders on the boats, yes. They’re designed for swimming.”
So, then explain to me how Naya could NOT get back on the boat. Authorities said it was windy, so the wind or a wind gust could have moved it away from her. The maximum wind speed was about 15 mph, and the maximum wind gust speed was roughly 21 mph. Both are considered “moderate wind” in the boating world. So, it is possible, but you’d think she’d swim to the boat. Authorities also said she could have become entangled in something or became tired. They had an answer for everything. 😉
Naya and Lake Piru
Naya was familiar with Lake Piru because she had been there numerous times since childhood. She would know about the trees in the lake, so why would she let her child swim? And honestly, why as a parent, would you make your kid wear a life jacket, but not yourself? Not exactly setting a good example, and that is a far cry from Naya as a mom, from what I understand.
One minute authorities said the boat was anchored, and the next, it wasn’t. I don’t think Naya would have left the boat unanchored while she and Josey were swimming for the simple fact that it would have made it more difficult for both of them to get back on the boat.
Some people questioned why it took 5 days to find her, but I noticed that the victim was found anywhere between 1 day and 2 months later in other drowning cases at Lake Piru. I don’t think there’s anything suspicious there.
Her family said that Naya and Josey planned on having a barbecue at the lake but decided to go boating. Why? What changed her mind? Did they decide to barbecue after boating? I know we will never know, but I’m just curious.
It doesn’t appear to have taken her but a second to rent the boat. Wouldn’t she have to fill out the paperwork and pay the rental fee? She clearly goes in and out of the little shack (or whatever you call it) in a matter of no time. Maybe there is another place where they pay for rentals; I don’t know.
The Parking Lot
I will tell you one thing I am confused about and is not really relevant to this post lol – where Naya parked her vehicle. See where the arrows point to in the first picture below? They’re (not sure what those are called – medians, I guess?) not in the parking lot’s satellite view in the 2nd picture, which is taken from Google Maps.
The only thing I can think of is that the bottom pic is older, and the parking lot had some work done on it since. It’s weird and looks almost like it’s from another lake. I know it is Lake Piru, but I found it strange.
Also, in the satellite pic, do you see anywhere there would be a security cam? I don’t. Where the heck is the camera?
Ryan and Nickayla
I think it was a dumb move for Ryan and Nickayla to use the excuse of raising Josey to live together. I don’t feel they had to live together to raise Josey if this was strictly a platonic relationship.
I’m pretty sure I read at the time of Naya’s disappearance that Ryan had told investigators he did not know Naya and Josey were going to Lake Piru on July 8.
But in an Instagram post dated July 25, he said, “We were just in the back swimming with Josey the day before.”
And Naya never mentioned taking Josey to Lake Piru the next day? Maybe Naya decided at the last minutes to go.
I don’t know what Ryan or Nickayla was doing at the time of her disappearance. I could not find that info anywhere.
Strangely enough, Ryan filmed a movie in 2018 about a woman who disappears and is later found dead in a lake. Make what you want out of that or not. It’s your call.
While I do admit there are strange things going on in the video, it’s hard for me to call foul play based on the video alone.
What would the motive be for murder?
I would have expected the autopsy report to reveal bruises or other marks on her body consistent with an attack. There were none, according to the ME. But it’s not unheard of for a ME to lie on a PM report.
I tried to cover as much as I could here, but if I left something out, someone else can chime in and post it in the comments.
Strohm, Emily. “Why Ryan Dorsey and Naya Rivera’s Sister Live Together: ‘Josey Needs a Mother Figure,’ Source Says.” People Magazine. October 7, 2020. Retrieved on October 10, 2020. https://people.com/tv/why-ryan-dorsey-and-naya-rivera-sister-live-together-josey-needs-a-mother-figure-source/