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CHOCO
Dec 14th, 2002, 06:30 AM
Three other suspects plead innocent in transgender teen's death

MICHELLE LOCKE, Associated Press Writer Friday, December 13, 2002
(12-13) 16:12 PST FREMONT, Calif. (AP) --

Three men pleaded innocent Friday to killing a 17-year-old after finding out the young women they knew as Lida was biologically male.

Meanwhile, the family of the dead teen says they will work to make hate crimes eligible for the death penalty.

"A hate crime is a crime of bias and poses a substantial threat to the health, safety and welfare of the entire community," attorney Gloria Allred, who is representing the victim's family, said outside court.

Police say Eddie "Gwen" Araujo, Jr. was killed Oct. 3 during a party held at suspect Jose Merel's house in Newark, a San Francisco suburb. In mid-October, another suspect, Jaron Nabors, 19, led police to Araujo's body, buried in a shallow grave 150 miles east of San Francisco in the Sierra foothills, according to police reports.

Nabors pleaded innocent in early November. The three remaining suspects, Merel, 23, Michael William Magidson, 22, and Jason Cazares, also 22, pleaded innocent Friday during a brief court appearance. The judge set a preliminary hearing date of Jan. 29.

Outside the courtroom, Nabors' attorney, Robert Beles, reiterated claims that Nabors did not murder Araujo. "He didn't strike anybody. He didn't aid and abet the homicide," Beles said.

Merel's mother, Wanda Merel, also spoke to reporters, defending her son as innocent.

"My son had nothing to do with Lida's death. He was not present at the time. He did not hit. He did not kick. He did not beat nor did he strangle her," she said.

Araujo commonly went by the name Gwen but was also known as Lida.

Araujo's mother, Sylvia Guerrero, has attended most of the court appearances of the alleged killers, but the thought of facing all four suspects Friday was "too much for her to bear," said daughter Pearl Serrano.

Authorities charged the murder as a hate crime, which means the defendants could get a few extra years in prison if convicted.

Allred said hate crimes ought to be defined as a special circumstance, the charge that makes first-degree murder potentially punishable by death. She said when the case is over, the family plans to lobby for a change in the law to accomplish that.

"Gwen had a right to be who she was and had no duty to live a lie in order to conform to what some who did not know her thought she had to be," Allred said.

CHOCO
Dec 14th, 2002, 06:32 AM
Posted on Fri, Dec. 13, 2002

Not guilty pleas entered in death of Newark transgender teen
By Yomi S. Wronge
Mercury News

Three remaining defendants charged with the beating and strangling death of a 17-year-old Newark transgender teenager pleaded not guilty today to murder with a hate crime enhancement.

Police say the men murdered Eddie ``Gwen'' Araujo, who identified as a girl, Oct. 3 after discovering at a party that Araujo was anatomically male.

Jose Merel, 23, of Newark, and Fremont residents Jason Cazares and Michael Magidson, both age 22, wore red jail-issued pajamas and barely glanced into the packed audience at the Fremont Hall of Justice as their lawyers entered pleas and set future court dates. A fourth man, Jaron Nabors, 19, of Newark, has already pleaded innocent.

Almost two weeks after the killing, Nabors led police to Araujo's body, where he had helped bury it in a shallow grave some 150 miles away in the Sierra Nevada foothills, court records say.

``He didn't strike anybody; he didn't participate in any homicide,'' Nabors' attorney, Robert J. Beles said after the brief proceeding, adding that it's too soon to tell whether Neighbors will testify against the other defendants.

The young men all knew Araujo, who told them her name was ``Lida.'' Police say at least two of the defendants may have had a sexual relationship with the teen, though none of the men has acknowledged such a relationship.

Wanda Merel said today that her son, Jose, was not involved in the crime, which police say took place at the party inside his house.

`My son . . . did not hit, he did not kick, beat or strangle her,'' she said. `He was not present. There will be no evidence linking him to this case.''

Judge Dennis J. McLaughlin set aside Jan. 29 and Jan. 30 for a preliminary examination in the case to determine whether each defendant should stand trial. All four have been charged with a hate-crime, but hate crimes do not fall under the special circumstances category that would make a defendant eligible for the death penalty if found guilty.

That angers Araujo's family.

``When this case reaches its conclusion, we plan to approach the legislature to assist in changing the law to send a message that crimes of bias that result in murder will be treated in the most serious way that the law allows,'' said the family's attorney, Gloria Allred.

Araujo's mother, Sylvia Guerrero, did not attend today's court proceedings. Her daughter, Pearl Serrano, said her mother was not up to seeing the four defendants.

CHOCO
Dec 16th, 2002, 12:19 AM
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