Araujo offered to pay captor for her safety

BY Advocate.com Editors

March 19 2003 12:00 AM ET

A transgendered teen under attack after partygoers discovered that the girl they knew as Lida was anatomically male apparently made a desperate bid for safety by offering a cash ransom if she were set free. Jaron Chase Nabors, who was at the party the night the teenager was killed, said Monday that defendant Jason Michael Cazares, 22, told him that "Lida had offered him a couple of grand to get her out of the house." The answer was no, "obviously," Nabors said. Cazares and two other men--Jose Antonio Merel, 23, and Michael William Magidson, 22--are charged with killing Eddie "Gwen" Araujo, the person they knew as Lida, at a house party in the San Francisco Bay area suburb of Newark. Nabors, 19, was also initially charged with murder but was allowed to plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter after agreeing to testify against his friends in a hearing that will determine whether they will stand trial for murder.

Defense attorneys for the three men tried to undermine Nabors's credibility, pointing out discrepancies between his earlier interviews with police and his testimony. Defense attorney Tony Serra noted that Nabors, who ultimately led police to where the body was buried in the Sierra foothills east of Newark, initially told police he didn't have any idea where Araujo was, saying, "That is the honest-to-God truth."

"That was a bald-faced lie, wasn't it?" asked Serra, who is representing Cazares.

"Correct," Nabors responded.

"When you lie, because you are articulate and because you're willing to bring God into it, you're a pretty successful liar, aren't you?" Serra continued.

The judge found that question to be argumentative, so Serra rephrased it. "That is a method you employ to make people believe your lie," said the attorney.

"When I was agnostic, yes," said Nabors, who earlier testified that he wrote to his girlfriend from jail that he had "accepted Jesus Christ as my savior."

Serra also questioned why even after the body was found, Nabors did not tell police that Cazares was involved. That came out in the letter Nabors wrote to his girlfriend, which Nabors said he did not realize would be intercepted by officials. The story reached police after Nabors allegedly told a friend some of the details of the murder when he returned from burying the body.

According to Nabors, the four men met Araujo last summer and had become increasingly suspicious about her sex. They confronted Araujo at a party at Merel's house in the early morning hours of October 4, and pandemonium broke out when they discovered she was anatomically male, Nabors said. Araujo was slapped, put in a choke hold several times, hit with a can and a skillet, and kneed in the face so hard, her head jerked back and left an indentation in the wall, Nabors testified. After that she was tied up and
strangled, he said.

Nabors identified Magidson and Merel as carrying out the brunt of the attack. He said he did not strike Araujo but did prevent her from leaving the house at one point. Nabors testified that Cazares intervened three times on Araujo's behalf, at one point even threatening to "sock" Magidson unless he let go of Araujo. However, Nabors has also testified that Cazares admitted to hitting Araujo twice on the head with a shovel after she had been bound and strangled to make sure she was dead.

The hearing, which began in late January and has been frequently postponed due to scheduling conflicts, was expected to end Tuesday. Outside the courtroom, Sylvia Guerrero, Araujo's mother, said listening to the details of her child's death "over and over" is painful. As to the testimony that Cazares tried to protect Araujo, she said, "I appreciate the attempt, but it wasn't enough."

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