The Glee actor Naya Rivera has been found dead after drowning in a California lake. Rivera, 33, who appeared in the Ryan Murphy series between 2009 and 2015, went missing last Wednesday at Lake Piru. Her four-year-old son, Josey, was found wearing a life jacket on a boat that Rivera had rented.
Confirming Rivera’s death at a press conference today, Bill Ayub of the Ventury county sheriff’s department said that based on the location where the body was found, physical characteristics, and the fact that no one else had been reported missing in the area, they were “confident” that the body found was that of Rivera.
A detailed autopsy is set to take place, with the sheriff’s department reiterating that they believe the actor’s death to have been accidental and Ayub stating that there was “no indication of foul play and no indication this was a suicide”.
Born in Los Angeles, Rivera began her career on the CBS sitcom The Royal Family, which she appeared on from the age of four. She also had small roles in shows including The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Baywatch.
Best known as the cheerleader Santana Lopez in Glee, Rivera was nominated for a Grammy along with her co-stars for the cast’s version of Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’. She is the third cast member from the show to have died, following Mark Salling – who killed himself in 2018 after pleading guilty to charges over child abuse images – and Cory Monteith, who died in 2013 following a heroin and alcohol overdose.
Rivera married the actor Ryan Dorsey in 2014, with whom she had her son. The couple divorced in 2018. Following Glee, Rivera signed a record deal with Columbia, releasing a single with her former boyfriend Big Sean, and continued to act in various film and TV projects, including Lifetime’s Devious Maids.
On Sunday, Rivera’s Glee co-star Heather Morris, who played the role of Brittany Pierce, appealed to the sheriff’s department to let citizens join the search and rescue operation. She later added: “Understand it’s 110 degrees here and if you’re not highly trained in search and rescue, this could end up a much more dangerous situation for everybody involved. Please be kind, compassionate and caring for those who are looking for our Naya.”
Leading tributes to Rivera, Jane Lynch, who played cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester, said: “Rest sweet, Naya. What a force you were. Love and peace to your family.”