Elise Malary, trans activist found in Lake Michigan, drowned but manner of death remains undetermined, autopsy finds

Malary’s disappearance on March 11 sparked a massive search for the 31-year-old, who was hailed as a pillar of Chicago’s transgender and queer communities.

SHARE Elise Malary, trans activist found in Lake Michigan, drowned but manner of death remains undetermined, autopsy finds
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

Elise Malary, an activist for transgender rights whose body was found in Lake Michigan last spring, died from drowning but her manner of death could not be determined, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

Malary’s disappearance on March 11 sparked a massive search for the 31-year-old, who was hailed as a pillar of Chicago’s transgender and queer communities.

She was found six days later in the lake near Garden Park in Evanston, bringing a tragic end to a week of searching by friends and neighbors.

Autopsy results released on Sunday ruled her death a drowning, but the medical examiner’s office was unable to rule if her death was accidental or not.

Investigators with the medical examiner’s office did not find trauma on her body, and a police investigation did not reveal any foul play, police said in a statement Thursday.

Police said they would continue investigating leads to determine Malary’s manner of death.

Malary, born and raised in Andersonville, had worked in the Civil Rights Bureau of Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s office. She had also worked with Chicago Therapy Collective, a group that addresses social factors impacting mental health in the trans community.

She had recently moved to Evanston.

Malary’s death — and the murder of another Black trans woman, Tatiana “Tee Tee” Whetstone, in Chatham — highlighted the struggles the transgender community faces during the Trans Day of Visibility in late March.

Studies have found that transgender women face higher rates of violence and suicide than the overall population, with Black transgender women at a heightened risk for murder.

Police asked anyone with information about Malary’s death to contact Evanston police detectives at (847) 866-5040. Tips can also be texted to 274637, starting the message with EPDTIP.

Contributing: Sophie Sherry

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