The story of how death-metal musician Morbid got involved in the Elisa Lam case is a cautionary tale on what happens when people on the Internet fail to check their facts.
As detailed in Netflix’s true-crime docuseries Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel, when 21-year-old Lam’s body was discovered floating in a water tank on the roof of Los Angeles’ Cecil Hotel in 2013, the bizarre details of her death quickly captured the attention of the online true-crime community. Consumed with a desire to find answers, Internet sleuths poured over every piece of evidence they could find that might solve what really happened to her —even if it meant accusing an innocent person of murder.
Before the Lam case, Morbid, whose real name is Pablo Vergara, was just like any other musician sharing his art online. Cloaking himself in spooky getups and painting on makeup reminiscent of the Saw film franchise, he sang his own death metal songs and played a black electric guitar. But the selfie-style YouTube video he posted while staying at the Cecil Hotel in 2012, nearly a year before Lam’s disappearance and sans any creepy attire, is the one that changed his life forever.
Despite the fact that Vergara was nowhere near Los Angeles at the time of Lam’s death — Morbid was actually at home in Mexico, with contracts from a recording studio to prove it — the disturbing subject matter of his music videos coupled with the fact that he had ever once set foot inside the Cecil was enough to convince a legion of Lam’s supporters that he was her killer.
To be fair to the web sleuths, at first glance the videos Morbid posted do seem quite dark. One video showed him performing in front of photos of serial killer Ted Bundy and Elizabeth Short, the actress famously murdered in Los Angeles in 1947 also known as the Black Dahlia.
Another post, a mirror selfie again in spooky makeup, is captioned “the killer is me.” One of Morbid’s songs was about drowning — Lam’s body was discovered submerged in water — and in yet another music video for a song called “Died in Pain,” a woman (who was an actress in the video and not in real danger) is depicted running for her life in a forested area.
But despite the spooky connections, Vergara has always maintained his innocence and was cleared by the LAPD.
“I remember some bizarre thing where the web sleuths were trying to connect Elisa’s case to some singer in Mexico. But all I can say is he’s not involved,” Tim Marcia, an LAPD homicide detective who worked on the case, said in Vanishing.
As a result of sleuths piecing together these “clues,” Vergara’s YouTube, Facebook and email accounts were spammed with hateful messages and later shut down. Though he’s now part of a new band called Dynasty of Darkness, the Elisa Lam accusations led him to attempt to take his own life, after which he sought psychiatric treatment and was hospitalized.
“The web sleuths go on with their lives like nothing happened. But they really turned my life upside down. I do feel like I have lost my freedom of expression. I actually haven’t made any more music. When I try, it’s not the same,” Vergara explains in Vanishing. “I’m trying to rebuild my life and everything, but it sucks. Every day, it’s never going away. And now I have to live with it for the rest of my life.”
Netflix’s docuseries Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel is now streaming.
Main image: Pablo Vergara interviewed in Episode 4 of Netflix’s Crime Scene: Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel.