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Araujo trial witness returns to stand

Araujo trial witness returns to stand

The woman who revealed the biological identity of a transgendered teenager to the three men on trial for killing her has testified that she urged the girl to flee a party in October 2002 before something bad happened. Nicole Brown described an angry confrontation after heavy drinking at the late-night party that led to her following the teen into a bathroom and confirming the group's growing suspicions that the person they knew as "Lida" was biologically male. Eddie "Gwen" Araujo, who lived as a woman, was beaten, strangled, and buried in a shallow grave later that night. Brown said that Araujo had been inching toward the front door on the night of October 3, 2002, when she was stopped by cries of "Where do you think you're going?" Three men are on trial for murder in 17-year-old Araujo's death: Michael Magidson, 23; Jose Merel, 24; and Jason Cazares, 24. A fourth suspect, Jaron Nabors, has pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was promised an 11-year sentence in return for testifying against the others. Brown had been scheduled to testify Monday but was excused for the day after she broke down on the witness stand due to what attorneys said were personal problems. She returned as scheduled Tuesday. In October 2002, Brown was dating Merel's older brother, Paul. They were at a party at Merel's house in Newark, a San Francisco suburb, when she heard loud voices coming from the kitchen and went to investigate. There she found the three defendants and Nabors with Araujo. Brown said Jose Merel was standing over Araujo asking the same question over and over: "Are you a woman or a man?" Araujo said nothing, sitting with her head down, Brown said. Brown said she followed Araujo into a bathroom to end the speculation and that she started screaming after pushing Araujo's legs apart and grabbing at her genitals. "I can't believe this is a [expletive] man," Brown recalled saying. After her discovery, Brown said Magidson "tussled" with Araujo and that Jose Merel started crying and said, "I'm not gay." The witness said she told them that "whatever they were thinking about doing, they shouldn't do." She then told Araujo to leave and saw her head toward the door, but she heard voices saying, "Where do you think you're going?" Brown said she saw Magidson punch and choke Araujo until he was pulled off by some of the others. Later, Brown said, she saw Magidson shaking, with drops of blood on his arms. "I said, 'I gotta go. I gotta get out of here,"' Brown said. Brown said she and Paul Merel left the house before Araujo was killed. Under cross-examination, Brown admitted drinking 13 beers and smoking marijuana with Araujo the night of the killing. The trial was scheduled to continue Wednesday with more cross-examination of Brown.

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