The body of actress Naya Rivera, best known for her role as Santana Lopez on the Fox musical series Glee, was uncovered in a lake in Ventura County, California today, officials reported. This follows a multiple-day search for the 33-year-old, who went boating on Lake Piru with her 4-year-old son Josey on July 8. He was discovered sleeping on the rental boat after it wasn’t returned on time, while Rivera was missing.
According to Ventura County sheriff Bill Ayub—who spoke at a press conference Monday afternoon (via Vanity Fair)—police are confident the body recovered in the lake today is that of Rivera. Officials do not suspect foul play or suicide; they deemed her death an accidental drowning. Her son told authorities she went out to swim and never came back.
Rivera shot to fame back in 2009 when Glee debuted to much success and acclaim. At the start of the show, her character was a mean girl cheerleader who often served the role of antagonist and only had a recurring part. But as the show evolved, and we learned more about Santana’s softer side, she became a fan-favorite and a series regular. That was thanks in part to her coming out storyline, when it was revealed she was a lesbian and in love with her fellow cheerleader, Brittany (Heather Morris).
Rivera’s career began way before Glee. She was signed to a talent agency when she was just nine months old; she starred in commercials for Kmart as a baby. As a child, she guest-starred on shows like The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Family Matters, Baywatch, and Smart Guy. Rivera had a role on the 1991 sitcom The Royal Family when she was four.
She is the third young cast member of Glee to die under tragic or bizarre circumstances. Cory Monteith, who played Finn on the show, died of a heroin overdose on July 13, 2013—seven years to the date before Rivera’s body was discovered in Lake Piru. Mark Salling, who played Puck on the series, was arrested and charged with possession of child pornography in 2015 and committed suicide before sentencing in 2018. Rivera and Salling dated from 2007 to 2010.
Rivera is survived by her 4-year-old son Josey Hollis Dorsey (his father is her ex-husband Ryan Dorsey); her mother, Yolanda; her father, George; and two siblings, including Mychal and Nickayla.
Featured Image: Fox