By Advocate.com Editors
Originally published on Advocate.com February 20 2003 1:00 AM ET
Sexual suspicions had swirled about transgendered teen Eddie "Gwen" Araujo prior to her slaying, an acquaintance testified Tuesday at the Araujo murder trial. Nicole Brown recalled a conversation with the four men charged with killing the teenager in which they itemized reasons why the girl they knew as Lida could be biologically male--thick fingernails, unpainted toenails, strong cheekbones, and a blunt manner. "We're going back and forth trying to figure it out," Brown testified. Prosecutors say that 17-year-old Araujo was killed after the defendants found out for sure that Araujo was biologically male at a party in early October.
Brown testified at a Fremont, Calif., hearing to determine if the four defendants--Jose Antonio Merel, 23; Michael William Magidson, 22; Jason Michael Cazares, 22; and Jaron Chase Nabors, 19--should stand trial for murder. Brown knew the quartet because she had been dating Jose's older brother, Paul Merel. Brown said she didn't know Araujo well but had seen her sitting on the defendants' laps while they played dominos and giving them "pecks on the lips."
Brown testified that the question of whether Araujo was biologically male came up after Brown and Araujo got into a fight in early September. The scuffle started after Brown, who said both had been drinking, suggested that Araujo take her top off. Brown said it was surprising that the fight was an even match because she was taller and heavier than Araujo.
Earlier Tuesday, Emmanuel Merel, Jose's younger brother, testified that he had tried to help Araujo on the night of the party. Emmanuel said he tried to push Araujo out the front door after seeing Magidson put a choke hold on Araujo. Emmanuel said Nabors and Magidson blocked the doorway. Emmanuel also said he pulled Magidson's arm off Araujo's neck. Emmanuel Merel was in the house on the night of the party, which lasted into the early hours of Friday, October 4. However, he stayed in his room for most of the night. Emmanuel testified earlier that he had heard the defendants shouting, "Are you a man or a woman?" He testified Tuesday that at one point he opened his bedroom door and saw his brother Jose crying. Emmanuel paused for a moment during his testimony, during which Jose leaned forward in his seat behind the defendants' table, looking intently at his brother. "I believe he said, 'Lida's a man,"' Emmanuel continued.
Emmanuel Merel testified that he left the house along with Brown and Paul Merel shortly after trying to get Araujo out the door. Emmanuel said Araujo did not appear injured at that time. He acknowledged telling police earlier that Araujo seemed scared but said he had been misunderstood. Emmanuel testified for the prosecution, but both the prosecutor and defense lawyers pointed out inconsistencies between his testimony and statements given earlier to police. For instance, Emmanuel did not tell police in an October 17 interview about trying to push Araujo out the door. He said Tuesday that he had kept the information to himself because he wanted to protect himself.
Both the prosecution and defense asked why Emmanuel didn't call police, and defense lawyers in particular questioned his statements that after the party he didn't talk to either of his brothers about what had happened. "Why wouldn't you at least ask about that?" asked defense attorney Tony Serra. "I didn't take it upon myself to make it my business," Emmanuel Merel said.