Araujo's alleged killers face preliminary hearing

BY Advocate.com Editors

January 30 2003 12:00 AM ET

The grim details of how--and perhaps why--a transgendered teenager from Newark, Calif., was killed will come to light Wednesday when the four men accused of killing Gwen Araujo face a preliminary hearing, reports The [San Jose] Mercury News.

The hearing, to determine whether the case will go to trial, will showcase the strategy of the Alameda County prosecutor, who says the men brutally beat and then strangled the 17-year-old in a homophobic rage after finding out that Araujo was biologically male.

Defendants Jose Antonio Merel, 23, and Jaron Chase Nabors, 19, both of Newark, and Fremont residents Michael William Magidson, 22, and Jason Michael Cazares, 23, are all also charged with a hate crime. All four have pleaded not guilty and remain behind bars, although Magidson recently was granted bail and could be released if his family can post bond. The proceedings for the four men are set to run through Friday in Alameda County superior court in Fremont.

Defense attorneys for the accused have said the young men were deceived by Araujo, whom they knew as a beautiful 19-year-old girl named Lida. In court papers attorney Michael Thorman, who represents Michael Magidson, wrote that Araujo ''perpetrated a sexual fraud on heterosexual men who, when discovering they had been having sex with a man, had their masculinity, sexual identity, and self-esteem called into question at a time when they had been drinking heavily.''

But according to police reports and court documents, the defendants had discussed Araujo's gender among themselves several days before the killing. Deputy district attorney Connie Campbell has called the case premeditated murder.

''There is ample evidence,'' Campbell wrote in court papers, ''that this was not a spur-of-the-moment reaction...but rather a cold-blooded hunt to discover the biological gender of the victim.''

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