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Testimony
concludes in Araujo murder retrial

Testimony in the
retrial of three men accused of killing a transgender
teen concluded with the last suspect saying he doesn't
recall much about that night but knows in his heart
he's not guilty of murder. Closing arguments were
scheduled to begin Tuesday. Three men are on trial for
murder in the death of Gwen Araujo: Michael Magidson, Jose
Merel, and Jason Cazares, all 25.

Prosecutors say
Araujo, who was born a boy named Edward but grew up to
believe her true identity was as a woman, was murdered in a
calculated act of revenge after the defendants found
out the teenager was biologically male. According to
trial testimony, two of the defendants had had sexual
encounters with Araujo and became suspicious about her
gender after comparing notes. That led to a showdown at
Merel's house in the San Francisco suburb of Newark in
October 2002.

Araujo, 17, was
beaten, tied up, and then strangled. Her body was buried
in a shallow grave in the Sierra foothills, where it lay for
about two weeks until a fourth man who had been at the
house that night, 22-year-old Jaron Nabors, led police
there. The first trial ended in a hung jury last year.

Nabors, who
pleaded guilty to manslaughter in exchange for his
testimony, said the men assaulted Araujo, known to the
men as "Lida." He said he saw Magidson start to draw a
rope toward her neck. Cazares said he was out of the
house when the killing took place and helped only to
bury the body out of loyalty to his friends. Merel, who
along with Magidson did not testify until the retrial,
said he vomited and wept after learning that Araujo
was biologically male. He said he slapped Araujo and
hit her once in the head with a frying pan but never
intended that she be killed.

Merel cried on
the stand when prosecutor Chris Lamiero asked if Magidson
had admitted strangling Araujo. He reluctantly said that
Magidson had told him that "if push came to shove,"
Merel should tell the police that Magidson had
strangled Araujo. Magidson denied he strangled Araujo
but also said he did not remember everything that happened
that night. He said Nabors strangled Araujo. "I know
in my heart I didn't kill Lida. I know I didn't do
that, and I know that Jaron told me that he did,"
Magidson said.

William Du Bois,
Merel's attorney, questioned that account in his
cross-examination Monday, asking Magidson why he didn't tell
the police right away that Nabors was the killer.
Magidson, who at first told police he was the killer,
said he wanted to protect all four men but changed his
mind after being in jail. (AP)

Tags: World, World

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