Sheriff's office says it is 'confident' Naya Rivera's body has been found

The former "Glee" star went missing last Wednesday while boating with her 4-year-old son at Lake Piru in California.

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/ Source: TODAY
By Scott Stump

Authorities believe they have recovered the body of Naya Rivera, days after she went missing at a Southern California lake while boating with her young son.

The Ventura County Sheriff's Office said at a Monday afternoon press conference it is "confident" that a body found at Lake Piru belongs to Rivera. Rivera, a former star of "Glee," was 33.

The sheriff's office had announced earlier in the day that a recovery was in progress.

“Based on the location where the body was found, physical characteristics of the body, clothing found on the body, and the physical condition of the body, as well as the absence of any other persons reported missing in the area, we are confident the body we found is that of Naya Rivera," Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub said at the press conference.

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Ayub said there was no indication of foul play and that an autopsy is planned. He said a positive identification will be made through the examination of dental records.

Rivera was on a boat with her 4-year-old son, Josey, on Wednesday afternoon on Lake Piru, 56 miles north-northwest of Los Angeles, when officials believe she went missing.

Naya Rivera is best known for her role on "Glee."Axelle/Bauer-Griffin / FilmMagic

She rented a boat at about 1 p.m. and three hours later, authorities found just her son sleeping on the boat, Ventura County Sheriff's Office Capt. Eric Buschow told NBC News on Wednesday. The boy told authorities they had been swimming but that his mother never came back to the boat, Buschow said.

On July 7, Rivera posted a photo on Instagram of her and Josey snuggling together, writing "just the two of us."

The California native is best known for her portrayal of the character Santana Lopez on "Glee," the popular Fox show about a high school glee club that ran from 2009 to 2015.

Several of her former co-stars asked for prayers after learning that Rivera was missing on Wednesday.

Her character on "Glee" was a sassy cheerleader who showed off her softer side beginning in the second season when she struggled with her sexuality as a lesbian. She eventually married her love interest, played by Heather Morris, in a ceremony on the show.

"There are very few ethnic LGBT characters on television, so I am honored to represent them," she told Latina magazine in 2013. "I love supporting this cause, but it's a big responsibility, and sometimes it's a lot of pressure on me."

Rivera and Morris played a female couple who got married on the Fox hit "Glee." FOX

Her character also portrayed the struggles that Lopez had with being accepted by her Latino grandmother, whose religious beliefs lead her to initially reject Lopez when she comes out as gay.

"I'm blessed to have a number of close personal friends in my life who are gay and lesbian and I've heard their stories about high school and how it's still a struggle for them," Rivera told The Hollywood Reporter in 2012. "I had that to take with me and I also infused my own feelings about love and relationships and how tough that is and those feelings of embarrassment when things don't work out your way. It was a combination of both."

Rivera was a strong supporter of the LGBTQ community in her personal life as well.

"I have been so incredibly fortunate to portray a character on television that has meant so much to so many within the LGBTQ community," she wrote in a 2017 essay for Billboard. "Off screen, I am a woman who stands in support of equality, and equal rights for all. It has been one of the great blessings in my life to receive such love and touching stories as a result of my portrayal of Santana Lopez on 'Glee.'''

She was most recently a regular on the 2018 YouTube Red series "Step Up: High Water" about a performing arts school in Atlanta.

Rivera began her career as a child actor at 4 years old on the early '90s CBS sitcom "The Royal Family" and also appeared as a guest on hits like "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," "Family Matters" and "Baywatch," according to TV Guide.

She noted that her heritage as part Puerto Rican, German and Native American was an issue in getting work at first.

“It used to hold me back when I was younger,” she told Latina. “Casting directors didn’t understand what I was. I wasn’t black enough, or Latina enough — I kind of fell through the cracks."

Those struggles continued until she landed the role on "Glee."

"So, it was really tough and work started to show down," she told MTV in 2012. "From the time I was 16 to really up until turning 21, the roles were really, really few and far between. I had people say that I just wasn't a good singer. They didn't know what to do with me; I would never fit in any markets. I almost quit acting altogether."

Rivera was also a singer who released the 2013 single "Sorry" with rapper Big Sean, to whom she was once engaged.

Josey is her son with ex-husband Ryan Dorsey, an actor she divorced in 2018. She frequently shared sweet photos and videos on Instagram of her spending time with her boy.

"I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always, as long as I'm living, my baby you'll be," she wrote on Instagram on Josey's fourth birthday in September.

She also saw much of herself in her young son.

"He loves to sing and dance, so I found a dance class out here for him. I think he got that from me," she told Latina in 2018. "He’s such an extrovert. He loves to perform and make people laugh. I expose him to cooking, art, and music classes, anything and everything that I can."

Rivera gushed about Josey to People in 2018 when she started a children's clothing line.

“Josey inspires me in so many ways that it felt natural to want to create this for him and I,” she said. “Starting this company from the ground up is something I’m really, really proud of. I know that my son is proud of it too. It’s a sweet bond that we share together.”

She is at least the third performer from "Glee" who has died since the show ended. Mark Salling, 35, was found dead of an apparent suicide in Los Angeles in 2018 while facing up to seven years in prison for child pornography possession. Fellow cast member Cory Monteith, 31, died in 2013 in Vancouver from a drug overdose.