Before she died, transgendered teen Gwen Araujo begged her attackers for mercy. "No, please don't. I have a family," she said, according to Jaron Nabors, who was there on the October 2002 night Araujo was killed after a confrontation at a party in Newark, Calif. Her appeal went unheeded; prosecutors say the 17-year-old Araujo was brutally beaten and strangled after the people she thought of as friends discovered her secret--that she had been born a man.
On Monday the family Araujo was thinking of in her final hours cried softly as Nabors, now a key prosecution witness, gave the details of the long and violent assault. Michael Magidson, 23; Jose Merel, 24; and Jason Cazares, 24, are charged with killing Araujo. Nabors, 21, initially was charged with murder but pleaded guilty to manslaughter and has been promised an 11-year sentence in exchange for testifying.
The four men met Araujo in the summer of 2002 and became friends with her. But suspicions about her biological gender built up after Merel and Magidson, who had had sexual encounters with Araujo, began to compare notes, Nabors said.
On October 3, 2002, the men confronted Araujo at Merel's house in Newark, a San Francisco suburb, demanding to know if she was a man or a woman. Araujo seemed "shell-shocked" and didn't say much, although she did turn to Merel and Magidson and say, "How can you ask me that?" Nabors said.
The men tried to talk Araujo into physically revealing her sex, but she resisted, saying, "I'm not going to let you molest me," Nabors said. She eventually agreed to go into a bathroom with one of the men but on her way there veered toward the front door, saying she wanted to go outside and smoke a cigarette, Nabors said. Nabors intervened, pulling the door shut. He testified that he thought delaying the showdown would annoy the people in the house more. And, he said, "I wanted to know."
After Araujo's biological sex was revealed, Magidson applied a choke-hold on Araujo three times, each time being pulled off, twice by Cazares, Nabors said. Then came two swift slaps, either from Magidson or Merel or both--Nabors said he wasn't sure. That was when Araujo begged for mercy. Instead Merel hit her over the head, first with a can and then with a frying pan, Nabors said. Nabors said he and Cazares left to get some shovels.
When he returned, Nabors said, Araujo was sitting on the couch, bleeding. She was ordered to stand up because she was getting blood on the couch, and Merel began cleaning, Nabors said. Magidson punched Araujo twice in the face, and she went down, Nabors said. After that Magidson drove his knee into her face so hard that her head struck the wall behind her, leaving an indentation, Nabors said. He said Araujo still appeared conscious after that. Court adjourned at that point, and Nabors was expected to resume testifying Tuesday.