In Court, Details of Araujo Killing Emerge
[NEWARK, CA] - Preliminary hearings were held on Wednesday and Thursday to determine whether the four men charged in the Newark, Calif., killing of transgender teen-ager Gwen Araujo should stand trial for her murder.
Prosecutors charge that the four men, Michael Magidson, 22, Jose Merel, 23, Jaron Nabors, 19, and Jason Cazares, 23, beat and strangled Araujo, whom they had known as "Lida," after they found out she was biologically male. All four have pleaded innocent to the crime.
On Wednesday, Deanna Mendez, the girlfriend of Cazares, testified that she heard "chaos" and "loud screaming and quarreling" when she spoke to Cazares on her cell phone the night Araujo was killed (Oct. 4), reported the San Francisco Chronicle.
"I asked him what was going on," Mendez said. "He just told me that someone was there, and they were trying to get an answer out of this person." She recalled the conversation ending with Cazares saying "something along the lines of 'something is about to go down,'" and then hanging up.
On Thursday, the Chronicle reported, Emmanuel Merel, the younger brother of defendant Jose Merel, testified that he overheard all four defendants and Araujo arguing at his home on that same night.
Merel said that he repeatedly heard the boys asking Araujo, "Are you a man or woman?"
"I did hear a response," Merel said. "Something along the lines of 'Isn't it obvious?' That was Lida's voice."
Also testifying on Thursday was detective David Parks, one of the Newark officers who found Araujo's body. Parks described how defendant Nabors took the officers to where Araujo had been buried, the Chronicle stated.
According to Parks, Araujo's body was found about 150 miles from Newark in a shallow grave and wrapped in a white comforter with a purse, containing items belonging to Araujo, wrapped around her neck.
Forensic pathologist Dr. Paul Herrmann testified on the results of an autopsy of the victim's body. He stated that Araujo died from strangulation and blunt trauma to the head. Herrmann also stated that methamphetamines and marijuana were found in Araujo's bloodstream.
Prosecutors allege that Araujo, 17, had performed sexual acts with at least one of the charged men, and that the killing was premeditated because the defendants already had suspicions about Araujo's gender.
The defendants are also being charged with a hate-crime enhancement because the victim was transgender.
The hearings will resume on Feb. 18, when judge Kenneth Burr will decide whether the case will go to trial.