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Trans activist Elise Malary found dead in Illinois park after being reported missing

The dead body of a woman found in Illinois was identified Saturday as a dedicated transgender rights advocate who was reporting missing more than a week ago.

Elise Malary — who was reported missing March 11 — was found Thursday afternoon when authorities were alerted of “a woman in the water by the rocks” in Evanston’s Garden Park, and on Saturday she was “positively identified,” the Evanston Police Department announced.

The day she was reported missing, her family and friends searched for Malary in a park in Evanston, according to ABC.

Evanston police said she was last seen near her apartment in Evanston, and that her car was discovered in a parking lot just blocks away on Tuesday, the outlet reported.

Police said they didn’t find any evidence at her home or her car that suggests foul play, ABC reported. The Evanston Police Department vowed to continue investigating Malary’s death.

The Cook County medical examiner’s office conducted an autopsy on Friday but a cause of death has not yet been determined, the Chicago Sun Times reported.

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Elise Malary was reported missing on March 11.
ABC 7

Friends and family of Malary, 31, initially became concerned March 9 when they couldn’t reach her and reported her missing two days later, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Malary “was always there for you,” Alexis Martinez, Malary’s friend, told the paper.

An advocate for transgender people of color and the LGBTQ community, Malary served as a board member with the nonprofit Chicago Therapy Collective, where she has “profound influence,” Martinez reportedly said.

“She’d speak out on behalf of any issue that impacted women of color, LGBTQ folk — her heart’s so big,” said Iggy Ladden of Chicago Therapy Collective before police announced she had died, according to the Chicago Sun Times.

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Police said they didn’t find any evidence at her home or her car that suggests foul play.
WLS-TV Chicago

Two days before she was reported missing, Malary had left her job working for Attorney General Kwame Raoul, who released a statement Saturday.

“Elise was a valued member of our Civil Rights Bureau who, as a tireless advocate for the LGBTQ community, was passionate about her work,” he said, according to reports. “Her kindness and infectious smile will be missed by those who worked with her. The Attorney General’s office has lost a member of our family, and as an office, we are heartbroken.”

Angelina Nordstrom, Malary’s friend, told Block Club Chicago she was a “fierce advocate” for transgender people.

The loss of Elise Malary is heartbreaking. My heart goes out to all her loved ones, as well as all of Illinois’ transgender community. You deserve to feel safe in your home, and I will continue to do everything in my power to make Illinois welcoming and inclusive for everyone. https://t.co/oru4BF6j1B

— Governor JB Pritzker (@GovPritzker) March 20, 2022

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker labeled her death “heartbreaking.”

“The loss of Elise Malary is heartbreaking. My heart goes out to all her loved ones, as well as all of Illinois’ transgender community,” said Pritzker in a tweet. “You deserve to feel safe in your home, and I will continue to do everything in my power to make Illinois welcoming and inclusive for everyone.”

“I’m heartbroken to share that Elise is no longer alive and with us,” tweeted Chicago Alderwoman Maria Hadden. “Elise Malary will be missed terribly.”

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