LA boy’s death ruled accidental

The Associated Press
Thursday June 06, 2002

LOS ANGELES – A 7-year-old boy whose body was found in a mansion pool days after he disappeared drowned accidentally, the coroner’s office said Wednesday. 

An autopsy determined that Paolo Ayala died about the time he was reported missing on Sunday, said Craig Harvey, chief of operations for the Los Angeles County coroner’s office. 

The boy, who could not swim, was last seen alive at an afternoon pool party and was reported missing when his parents came to pick him up. 

The discovery of the body by a housekeeper on Tuesday following repeated searches of the wealthy Holmby Hills area. That initially led Deputy Police Chief Dave Kalish to suggest the possibility that the body may have been placed in the pool later. 

However, Harvey said Paolo died of asphyxia due to fresh water drowning, probably at the time he was first reported missing. 

“The death has been ruled by the coroner to be accidental,” Harvey said. “Anatomical findings show no evidence of the body having been removed from the pool prior to discovery. 

The ruling left the question of why the body had not been spotted by the 10 adults and 15 children at the party, as well as the many police officers who arrived later. 

Kalish said Wednesday that the body apparently was camouflaged by plaster from the degrading pool floor and walls that made the water milky and gave the illusion of seeing the bottom. 

“This has been an anguishing case for us,” Kalish said Wednesday. “We desperately wanted to find that child alive.” 

“Clearly, obviously we learned from this situation not to rely on what you think you see,” he said.