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concludes in Araujo murder retrial

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)

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