Friends of transgender woman who was found dead gather in Santa Ana

Friends of transgender woman who was found dead gather in Santa Ana
About 120 people march through downtown Santa Ana to remember Zoraida Reyes, whose body was found in a parking lot behind an Anaheim restaurant. (Adolfo Flores / Los Angeles Times)

On Friday evening, Macrina Reyes addressed a crowd of 120 people in Santa Ana, referring to them as her daughter's family.

They had gathered to honor Zoraida "Ale" Reyes, a 28-year-old transgender woman whose body was found in a parking lot behind an Anaheim restaurant Thursday morning.


Some held signs that said, "Trans lives matter" or "Love and respect our transgender community."

"I didn't know the family my daughter had, but I thank you," Macrina Reyes said in Spanish. "I know she's here uniting us."

Reyes' high school friend Zuleica Zepeda, 30, sang a Canadian song titled "Women's Warrior Song" and ended it with the crowd putting their fists in the air.

Moments later the procession marched through downtown Santa Ana, singing and holding the pink, blue and white transgender flags. The smell of burning sage clung to the air as passersby stared.

Reyes' death is being investigated as suspicious, although authorities said there was no immediate signs of foul play. An autopsy has been completed, but no cause of death was given pending further investigation, the O.C. Sheriff's Department said.

Many of the people at the vigil said they were concerned that Reyes was the victim of transgender violence. Her mother said she still can't believe she's gone, especially since she hasn't seen her daughter's body.

"I haven't seen her and I still don't believe it," Macrina Reyes said.

Alexa Vasquez said Reyes taught her how to be fearless. She said it pained her to know that transgender violence was prevalent.

"My friend had to die in order for us to come together," Vasquez said. "When I see you guys marching, I wish that I saw my friend walking with you.

Reyes was involved with several Orange County immigrant and LGBT advocacy groups. She was at a protest May 27 calling on Santa Ana to end its contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Jessica Castro, 32, of Anaheim, was in a support group for transgender woman in Santa Ana with Reyes. She said Reyes was quiet and shy, but very warm.

"But she would always give you a kiss and hug when she greeted you and said goodbye," Castro said in Spanish. "I'm still in shock, you just think wow she's gone in an instant."

A toxicology report is pending, said Lt. Bob Dunn, spokesman for the Anaheim Police Department, and could take weeks to be completed. Investigators are hoping it will help them identify a cause of death.

A fund for Reyes' burial costs has been established by her friends.


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