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Coroner: Boy in pool drowned

Paolo Ayala
Paolo Ayala  

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Paolo Ayala, a 7-year-old boy whose body was found in the bottom of a swimming pool nearly two days after he disappeared, drowned in what has been ruled an accident, the Los Angeles coroner's office said Wednesday.

Evidence from an autopsy showed Ayala was at the bottom of the pool from around the time he was last seen alive Sunday afternoon until he was found Tuesday morning.

His body evidently went undetected despite a massive search by law enforcement officers, said Craig Harvey, deputy chief of operations the coroner's office.

Ayala "probably died at about the time he first was reported missing. There was probably nothing that anybody could do for Mr. Ayala ... if he had been recovered on that date because of the length of time he had been under water," he said.

Ayala vanished while attending a birthday party at a house in fashionable west Los Angeles neighborhood of Holmby Hills.

Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief David Kalish said authorities now think Ayala was not detected because plaster on the sides of the aging pool created "milky, cloudy" water that masked objects on the bottom.

Kalish noted that 30 people at the party, as well as Ayala's parents and numerous police officers and firefighters, looked in the pool Sunday without seeing the boy. A pool man who put chemicals in the pool Monday also did not see him.

Evidence from an autopsy showed 7-year-old Paolo Ayala drowned in what has been ruled an accident. CNN's Frank Buckley reports (June 6)

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Watch the press conference by Los Angeles officials on the autopsy (June 5)

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CNN's Frank Buckley reports on the swimming pool tragedy (June 5)

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When Ayala was finally found Tuesday morning, police expressed initial suspicions that the body may have been put into the pool after the search.

But Dr. James Ribe, who performed the autopsy, said there is no evidence the body was ever moved.

Moving a body "usually leaves traces on or in the body. There were no traces," Ribe said, noting that the condition of the body was consistent with having been in the pool for two days.

Ribe also noted that once a child goes under the water, death can occur in just one to two minutes.

The LAPD's inability to find Ayala in the pool has raised questions about the thoroughness of the search efforts. But Kalish insisted police did everything they could to find the boy.

"We had officers who responded on their days off, searching. We brought in resources from throughout the city," Kalish said.

"We brought in search dogs from other agencies. We had the helicopters there. We had the community involved. We had officers walking in the neighborhood. We had motorcycle officers.

"There's nothing we wanted more than to find that little boy alive."

Saeed Farkhondehpour, owner of the home, told CNN the pool was murky Sunday.

A pool maintenance man serviced the pool Monday after police finished searching it. The maintenance man added chemicals, but he did not sweep or vacuum it, Farkhondehpour said. He said the water is about 9 feet deep at its deepest point.

On Wednesday the water was clear, the pool's bottom easily visible.

"Looking at the water right now and remembering what it looked like the day of the party, we all should have known that we couldn't see the bottom of the pool. It was very murky," Farkhondehpour said Wednesday.

Dr. James Ribe, left, and Craig Harvey of the coroner's office and LAPD Deputy Chief David Kalish discuss the findings.
Dr. James Ribe, left, and Craig Harvey of the coroner's office and LAPD Deputy Chief David Kalish discuss the findings.  

"Two of my kids kept saying, 'Dad, you cannot see the bottom of the pool,' and I pretty much like ignored them," Farkhondehpour said.

"I was under the impression that if there was anything in the water, you would be able to see it even though the water is murky. So as it turns out, I don't think that was the case."

Farkhondehpour said that by the time his children mentioned the murkiness, Ayala had already been missing almost two hours.

"It was too late by that point anyways," he said.

When Ayala's body was removed from the pool, he was wearing the swimming trunks he had been wearing when he disappeared Sunday, and there was no obvious trauma to the body, Kalish said.




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