Mystery over death of transgender activist in Orange County

About 120 people march through downtown Santa Ana to remember Zoraida Reyes, whose body was found in a parking lot behind an Anaheim restaurant.
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)

Authorities continued to investigate the death of a transgender activist, whose body was found behind a Dairy Queen in Anaheim.

The death of Zoraida “Ale” Reyes is being investigated as suspicious, although authorities said there were no immediate signs of foul play. An autopsy has been completed, but no cause of death was given pending further investigation, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department said.

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


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

They had gathered to honor the 28-year-old transgender woman, whose body was found 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 pink, blue and white flags of the transgender community. The smell of burning sage clung to the air as passersby stared.


Many of the people at the vigil said they were concerned that Reyes was the victim of violence because she was transgender. Her mother said she is having trouble accepting her daughter’s death.

“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 violence against transgender people 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 fund for Reyes’ burial costs has been established by her friends.

For Orange County news, follow @AdolfoFlores3.