Vigil planned for transgender activist found dead in Anaheim

Vigil planned for transgender activist found dead in Anaheim
Zoraida "Ale" Reyes, 28, leads a chant at a May 27 protest in Santa Ana. Reyes was found June 12 in a brushy area near a lot behind an Anaheim Dairy Queen. (Hairo Cortes)

Organizers were planning a vigil Friday for a transgender woman whose body was found in a parking lot behind an Anaheim restaurant.

Zoraida "Ale" Reyes, 28, of Santa Ana was found Thursday morning in a brushy area near a lot behind the Dairy Queen in the 200 block of North State College Boulevard by a customer who had parked there after ordering food at the drive-thru.


The Orange County Sheriff's Department said an autopsy has been completed, but the cause of death was pending further investigation. Lt. Bob Dunn, a spokesman with the Anaheim Police Department, said there was no evidence or immediate sign of injury that would indicate her death was a homicide.

The vigil is expected to start at 5:30 p.m. at the corner of Fourth Street and French Street followed by a procession to Sasscer Park.

Reyes' friend, Javier Saucedo, said she was a lovely person who was a bit shy, but always had a willing smile.

She was also an advocate for transgender and immigrant rights with Orange County groups including the Orange County DREAM Team, DeColores Queer Orange County and Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement.

Her death was particularly troubling because Reyes was someone who fought for transgender rights and visibility, Saucedo said.

"She was a big leader in our community," said Saucedo, who is also a spokesman for DeColores. "It's a very big hit to our community because it's one of our own."

Reyes was born in Mexico and immigrated to the United States, Saucedo said. She's a graduate of Century High School in Santa Ana and received an associate degree from Santa Ana College.

She transferred to UCSB where she studied Chicano studies, but moved back home to Santa Ana with her family about three years ago because of tuition costs, Saucedo said.

Jorge Gutierrez, another of Reyes' friends, remembers meeting her at a conference. She smiled at him and motioned to the seat next to her.

"For the next seven years we became good friends," Gutierrez said. "We lived together for two to three years, I got to know her and we were able to create the family we chose."

Mornings always started with laughter and breakfast, Gutierrez said.

Reyes was at a protest on May 27, calling on Santa Ana to end its contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

"She had a lot of clarity in what she wanted to say and do," Gutierrez said. "She taught me how to be proud and how to be fearless when I was being myself."

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