Woman found dead along Evanston lakefront identified as missing trans rights advocate Elise Malary

Malary, 31, was reported missing by family on March 11, who had not heard from her for days, Evanston police said.

SHARE Woman found dead along Evanston lakefront identified as missing trans rights advocate Elise Malary
Volunteer Coco Fernandez sticks a flyer that Fernandez hoped would help find missing transgender rights activist Elise Malary to a store’s window along North Clark Street in the Andersonville neighborhood on Saturday morning. The search ended in tragedy hours later as police announced Malary had been found dead.

Volunteer Coco Fernandez sticks a flyer that Fernandez hoped would help find missing transgender rights activist Elise Malary to a store’s window along North Clark Street in the Andersonville neighborhood on Saturday morning. The search ended in tragedy hours later as police announced Malary had been found dead.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

A woman found dead along the Evanston lakefront has been identified as missing LGBTQ advocate and activist Elise Malary, police in the north suburb announced Saturday.

Malary, 31, had been reported missing by her family March 11, sparking a massive search for the Andersonville resident who has been hailed as a pillar of Chicago’s transgender and queer communities.

Authorities on Thursday found a person dead in Lake Michigan on the rocks near Garden Park in the 500 block of Sheridan Square.

Elise Malary was reported missing March 11 and found dead six days later.

Elise Malary was reported missing March 11 and found dead six days later.

Provided

Police identified the body as that of Malary, but said there were no other updates in the ongoing investigation as of Saturday afternoon.

An autopsy was performed Friday but a cause of death has not yet been determined, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

Malary had last been seen in the 700 block of Hinman Avenue in Evanston. Her car was found Tuesday near Hinman Avenue and South Boulevard.

Police previously said they didn’t suspect foul play.

The identification brought a tragic end to a week of searching by friends and neighbors. Dozens of people had canvassed Andersonville Saturday in hopes of tracking her down. Malary was born and raised in the neighborhood.

Dozens of people canvassed the Andersonville neighborhood Saturday, hours before police announced missing activist Elise Malary had been confirmed dead.

Dozens of people canvassed the Andersonville neighborhood Saturday, hours before police announced missing activist Elise Malary had been confirmed dead.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

“She’d speak out on behalf of any issue that impacted woman of color, LGBTQ folk — her heart’s so big,” said Iggy Ladden of Chicago Therapy Collective, speaking hours before police announced Malary’s death.

Ladden worked closely with Malary through the Chicago Therapy Collective, a group committed to supporting the trans community and addressing social factors impacting mental health in the trans community.

“The loss of Elise is a tremendous loss to Chicago’s transgender and LGBTQ+ communities,” Ladden said in a statement. “Elise shone bright light into the world: I hope that we all take in that light and shine it forward.”

In a Facebook post, the group wrote they were heartbroken and anxious to learn more about the circumstances of her death, but had not been provided any updates.

“The outpouring of love, care, and community response reflects the deep impact of Elise’s love and advocacy on so many of us,” the post read. “We hope that you are taking tender care of one another.”

Attorney General Kwame Raoul released a statement Saturday evening after receiving the news that Malary, a friend and former employee, was found dead.

“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 wrote. “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.”

Gov. J.B. Pritzker also offered his condolences and said he would continue to work “to make Illinois welcoming and inclusive for everyone.”

“The loss of Elise Malary is heartbreaking,” Pritzker said in a statement on Twitter. “My heart goes out to all her loved ones, as well as all of Illinois’ transgender community.”

Police are asking anyone with information to contact detectives at (847) 866-5040. Tips can also be texted to 274637, starting the message with EPDTIP.

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