Police arrested four men on suspicion of murder after finding a body they believe is that of a missing 17-year-old Northern California transgendered girl. Michael William Magidson, 27; Jaron Chase Nabors, 19; Paul Richard Merel Jr., 25; and his brother, Jose Antonio Merel, 24, all from the east San Francisco Bay suburb of Newark, were arrested Wednesday and were each being held on suspicion of homicide, Newark police lieutenant Tom Milner said. Investigators also were looking at adding hate-crime enhancements.
The girl was last seen at a party in Newark on October 3, where she reportedly got into a heated argument and physical fight with several people, police said. "We're dealing with a number of people who could have helped, stepped in, prevented, or reported this," said Newark police lieutenant Lance Morrison. "None of them did."
Police believe the teen was assaulted and killed in Newark. Morrison described it as a "haunting and gruesome situation." He refused to say how she was killed. Police found the body Wednesday in a shallow grave near Silver Fork Campground in Placerville, about 150 miles northeast of Newark. They were directed to the spot by a suspect a day earlier.
Police said Friday that they are waiting for autopsy results before releasing the victim's identity. But Newark Unified School District superintendent Ken Sherer identified the teen as Eddie Araujo, a student who had been in the independent study program since eighth grade. Araujo would have been a senior this year but hadn't shown up at Crossroads High School this fall.
The teenager had chosen to dress like a girl "for some time," Milner said. "We don't know if that's the prime factor in the altercation or if there were other factors involved, such as revenge. These things are all definitely in play."