The outcome everyone feared but nobody wanted to believe became a reality over the weekend in Columbus, Ohio, as the body of young activist Amber Evans was recovered from the Scioto River, months after she disappeared at the end of a work day.
“The body recovered yesterday … has been positively identified as … Amber Evans,” said a tweet announcement by the Columbus Police Department. “The family has been notified.
While this is not the outcome we hoped for, we understand this brings closure for the family. Our thoughts & prayers go out to them.”
Evans, who was 28, became the executive director of Juvenile Justice Coalition (JJC) in early January. Since 2015, she had established herself as a rising force in the justice advocacy world. One of her first projects was House Bill 410, a state reform that forced dramatic limitations on the reliance on law enforcement to handle school-based discipline issues like truancy. Gov. John Kasich (R) signed the bill in 2016.
Evans’ greatest priority and skill is bringing together people affected by policies to advocate for change, and that was critical to passing the reforms, said Erin Davies, JJC’s former executive director.
“One of the big gaps is that people who make policy often haven’t been impacted by it,” said Davies, in an interview last month with The Chronicle of Social Change. “How do you translate a young person’s experience who isn’t eating enough, or isn’t feeling safe at home, all these things that can contribute to missing school?”
When Davies decided to step down last year, the board put JJC’s future in the hands of its young organizer. But on January 28, Evans left a meeting at 5:30 p.m., and said she was not feeling well. Columbus Police have noted a recent dispute with her boyfriend.
Evans picked up cold medicine shortly after leaving the meeting. Several hours later, a text message from her cell phone was sent to her mother, Tonya Fischer, that said, “I love you and I’m sorry.”
Fischer found her daughter’s car on a road that runs along the Scioto River. Police and rescue teams delayed their search of the river due to freezing temperatures, which drew accusations from some in the community that they might be more aggressive for a potential victim that had not been a frequent critic.
“That is of no concern to my investigators, we are working on a missing persons case,” Police Commander Alex Behnen told the local ABC affiliate in February. “I will not fail someone else’s child. Absolutely not.”
Tonya Fischer, Evans’ mother, announced on Facebook that a vigil will be held at 5:30 p.m. on March 27 at the Scioto Mile, the area where her daughter’s car was found.