Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Tragic Story of Gwen Araujo

Fast Facts

  • Full name: Gwen Amber Rose Araujo

  • Born: February 24, 1985 
  • Residence: Newark, California 
  • Attackers: Michael Magidson, Jaron Nabors, Jose Merel, Jason Cazares
  • Died October 4, 2002

  • Former name:Edward Araujo, Jr.

  • Fact: 

    Gwen Amber Rose Araujo (February 24, 1985 – October 4, 2002, née Edward Araujo, Jr.) was a transgendered teenager who died during or shortly after an attack by multiple individuals. The events leading up to Araujo's death were the subject of a pair of criminal trials in which it was alleged that the attackers were angered by the discovery that Araujo — who, at the time, was living as female — was biologically male. Two of the defendants were convicted of second-degree murder, but the jury concluded that no hate crime was committed; two other defendants pleaded guilty or no contest to voluntary manslaughter. The circumstances of the case have caused it to become a rallying point for the LGBT community, and a number of underreported and controversial aspects about the case and about Gwen's murder remain points of contention.  


    LIFE:  

    Araujo lived in Newark, California. Family members report that she was a happy and energetic child. She expressed the desire to be female from an early age and, just prior to her death, had started to live as a woman. Araujo attended public school and a local church with family members until she began to be ostracized for her sexual identity, at which time she began to withdraw socially. She stopped attending Newark Memorial High School prior to her graduation and began to look for work. She was unable to find a job, which her mother states was the result of intolerance created by her child's gradual transition between genders.

     

    DEATH:  
    Araujo, who was going by the name "Lida" at the time, was introduced to a circle of friends whom she met during a chance encounter while walking down a local street. The group of young adults enjoyed passing the evening hours with party activities that included playing dominos and consuming drugs and alcohol at the home of Araujo's to-be assailants. Araujo was reported to have engaged in sexual activities with at least two of the men from the group. A few weeks later, she was invited back to the house where a party was planned. She wore her mother's peasant blouse to the party, although her mother had asked her not to and expressed discomfort with Araujo's appearance. Araujo told her mother that she was just being jealous. This was the last time Sylvia Guerrero saw her child alive. 

     At the party on October 3, 2002 it was discovered, by forced inspection (conducted by a young man at the party), that Araujo had male genitalia. In an explosion of activity, the men that she had had sexual relations with became extremely agitated. Once it was discovered that Araujo was biologically male, Mike Magidson began choking her in the hallway of the house. At this point numerous guests left the residence. Jose Merel and Jaron Nabors remained inside the residence with Mike Magidson. Jason Cazares claimed to go outside at this point; however he did not leave because he had arrived in Mike Magidson's truck. After everyone left, the three assailants continued assaulting Araujo. She was brutally beaten for about 5 hours. Jose Merel struck her over the head with a frying pan and then struck again with a can of tomatoes, causing a gash to her head which bled profusely. Mike Magidson kneed her in the head against the living room wall, with such force that her head caused an indentation in the plaster wall. After this, Araujo was taken to the garage of the home and strangled with a rope. Most accounts have Jose Merel cleaning blood out of the carpet at the time she was strangled. She was then hog-tied, wrapped in a blanket and placed in the bed of a pick-up truck. The three assailants, plus Jason Cazares drove her body to parkland in El Dorado County, California, a wooded area in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada known as Silver Fork, where she was finally buried in a shallow grave. It is not clear at what point during this sequence of events Araujo's death occurred. However, the autopsy showed that she died from strangulation associated with blunt force trauma to the head.



    TRIAL:
    Nearly two weeks passed before Araujo's body was discovered by the authorities. For fear of reprisal, the partygoers did not report the crime and the assailants all agreed not to say a word to anyone about the matter. Later, however, Jaron Nabors began talking to a friend about what happened. The friend called the police and Jaron Nabors was later detained and questioned. Under interrogation, Jaron Nabors disclosed the location of Araujo's body. 

     Alameda County Sheriff's Office dispatched four crime scene investigators and two detectives who recovered the body at the gravesite. The deputies were led there on October 16, 2002 by Jaron Nabors, the youngest of the four individuals charged with the crime. The four accused of the murder were: Michael Magidson, 22, Jaron Nabors, 19, José Merél, 22 and Paul Merel, Jose's older brother. Paul Merel was quickly released because his girlfriend came forward to the police telling them that Paul had left that night with her. Paul Merel and his girlfriend were never charged and became witnesses for the prosecution. Nabors later testified against the other three in a deal with the DA for a lesser charge of manslaughter after police monitored a jailhouse letter and information gained during a wiretapped telephone conversation with one of the accused. Jason Cazares was arrested over a month after the other defendants, and only after Nabors implicated Cazares in a letter to Nabors' girlfriend, explaining how he (Nabors) wasn't involved in the killing.


    On December 16, 2005, pursuant to a plea agreement, Cazares entered a no contest plea to voluntary manslaughter with an agreed sentence of six years in prison. He will serve a little more than three years given his time in custody. He, along with Magidson and Merél, were formally sentenced on January 27, 2006. Nabors was sentenced to 11 years in prison, as his plea agreement indicated, on August 25, 2006.


    REMEMBERANCE:
    Araujo's mother, who referred to her child as her little "Angel", has said publicly that she would like her daughter's case to be influential in changing the disciplinary actions for hate crimes resulting in death to include the death penalty. Sylvia Guerrero and her brother David have appeared publicly and before national media to express their grief and to denounce violence against gender-variant youth.

     Araujo's mother, who referred to her child as her little "Angel", has said publicly that she would like her daughter's case to be influential in changing the disciplinary actions for hate crimes resulting in death to include the death penalty. Sylvia Guerrero and her brother David have appeared publicly and before national media to express their grief and to denounce violence against gender-variant youth. 


    At Araujo's mother's request, a judge posthumously changed Araujo's legal name from Eddie to Gwen on June 23, 2004.  

    A Lifetime Network Movie called A Girl Like Me: The Gwen Araujo Story, starring J.D. Pardo and Mercedes Ruehl, aired on June 19, 2006.


    NOTE:You can also find this movie and vew the whole thing on YouTube. Just search: Girl Like Me Gwen Araujo.  
    If you have Netflix the full 'real' story and the trial can be viewed by looking up. Trained in the Ways of Men.

          Trained in the Ways of MenDocumentary filmmaker Shelly Prevost examines the brutal 2002 murder of Gwen Araujo, a transgender teen who was killed by four men enraged to discover that she was actually a biological male, in this nuanced look at gender identity and aggression. The case became a rallying point for the transgender community when the men, who had all been intimate with Araujo, claimed that her deception justified their actions.

     
    Cast: Sylvia Guerrero, Tony Serra, Michael Thorman
    Director: Shelly Prévost
     Genres:Documentaries, Gay & Lesbian Movies, Crime Documentaries, Social & Cultural Documentaries
    This movie is:Violent, Cerebral, Controversial, Dark.
     
    PERSONAL NOTE:
    I watched the Youtube vid and the movie on Netflix and I'm still in shock and that's putting it mildly. I cried my man-tears and I'm quite traumatized by it all. What this poor young 'lady' went through and the tragedy of it all shows how life IS unjust even in today's world. Something that will remain with me the rest of my life after seeing this is Gwen's words alone: LIFE IS WHAT YOU MAKE IT!
     



9 comments:

  1. My heart goes out to the family. What a sad and tragic story. I'm afraid I don't think I could watch the movie. It would be too upsetting. Thanks so much for sharing.

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  2. It makes me sad to realize that little has changed since the 1970's when I was a child growing up in the Bronx. Kids who were different were ostracized, criticized, or abused. Why is it that some kids are quiet, sensitive, and respectful of others in spite of their differences while others are so full of hate and violence? I'm sad for Gwen and for her family and hope that things will get better.

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  3. Je viens de voir le film en france et cette histoire me touche, Gwen était magnifique, c'est toujours très triste de perdre une personne aussi pure.
    toutes mes condoléances.

    Patricia

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  4. Patricia, j'ai ete tres trouble par ce film. Sachant que c'etait reel et pas de la fiction, il est encore pire a traiter.

    Merci enormement pour votre commentaire.

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  5. THIS SITE IS SO HYPOCRITICAL ITS DISGUSTING, AND THE DOCUMENTERY WAS EVEN MORE DISTURBING. EVRYONE IS QUICK TO POINT OUT HER RIGHTS TO BE WHO SHE FELT SHE WAS AND I COMPLETELY AGREE WITH THAT PART, BUT IN HER DOING SO IN THIS PARTICULAR CASE SHE DENIED THEM THE ABILITY TO STAY TRUE TO WHO THEY WERE BY HER LIES. IF SHE HAD BEEN FORTHCOMING UP FRONT ABOUT WHO SHE/HE WAS SURE SHE MAY HAVE FACED REJECTION OR RIDICULE AGAIN BUT SHE WOULD HAVE ALSO LIVED, AS I CANT SEE THIS GROUP WITH ZERO TO NO CRIMINAL RECORD ACTING IN THE SAME WAY HAD THEY NOT BEEN TRICKED INTO RELATIONS WITH A MAN. NOW I KNOW I WILL GET RIPPED APART FOR THIS POST BUT I THINK IT IS MESSED UP THEY COULD NOT GET A REDUCED SENTENCE JUST BECAUSE OF THE BACKLASH FROM THE STRONG GAY LESBIAN TRANSGENDER COMMUNITY THAT SURROUND THE AREA. WHAT HAPPENED TO THIS YOUNG MAN WAS HORRIBLE AND I WISH IT ON NO LIVING BEING, BUT TO PRETEND THAT SHE DID NOT PLAY AT LEAST A SMALL PART IN HER OWN MURDER IS IGNORANT. NOW FEEL FREE TO ATTACK MY SPELLING OR ANYTHING ELSE IN THIS POST BUT IF YOU LOOK AT IT FROM A COMPLETELY NON BIASED ANGLE AND STILL CANT SEE THAT OUR JUSTICE SYSTEM FAILED.....AGAIN THEN I FEEL FOR YOU AND THOSE WHO HAVE TO LIVE WITH YOUR SKEWED VIEWS. AND I DO TRULY HOPE THAT THIS YOUNG SOUL DID FIND THE PEACE SHE DESERVED AT GODS SIDE.

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  6. Anonymous, you have made many good points there and I commend you for it. I am not going to rip you apart either. I'm actually not going to remove your comment and why? It's the comment that warrants the upmost of debates if anyone wishes to kick from lurkdom and voice their opinion. I'll voice mine, of cowse.

    1st The CAPS? It's gotta go. I'm going to go deaf with all the yelling :snickering:

    2nd If you've seen the movie you'd realize that it's not Gwen's 'lover' that murdered her but rather others that were the ones who had felt duped. But I didn't see it that way. They in my opinion were hurtful, hateful, homophobic or transphobic if you wish to get politically correct. One of them being a jealous chick!

    It was indeed horrible, it tore me up to watch it and I wouldn't wish anything even close as to what she dealt with to be inflicted upon my worst enemy.

    Lastly, I feel Gwen was being true to herself although she was warned by her own mother to tell the TRUTH. She hadn't, but her mother had gone to her boyfriend and had. I do feel it shouldn't have reached that point, but consider this: If you were in her shoes what would you have done? Gwen feared rejection as most all in the GLBT community so. All we wish for is acceptance and it hurts that you have to lie about your 'true; self in order to obtain this.

    I'll end this note in wondering why, Anonymous, after having posted such a great comment in my opinion, why would you hide your 'true' identity by not giving your name hmmm?

    I will still say this: I hope Gwen IS resting in peace and will always be in my thoughts. Condolences especially go out to her friends and family.

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  7. This story is extremely personal to my heart. We have to remember though that this is not just about hate or being terrified to be who you are or even about homophobia, at the end of the day someone, a child, lost a life, and that should not have happened. We should be concerned about justice being served. Was it? As I said already, this story is close to home and I followed this case from beginning to end and my end didn't "end" so well. Out of those four defendants, two were convicted of murder, one got a reduced sentence and one is out of prison, happily living a full life at home. It hurts me that the system is supposed to protect us and save us and yet sometimes, it tends to destroy us. We will never know all of the details about what happened that night, but I can tell you this. A man was convicted of a crime he didn't commit and everybody else gets off the hook except one? Where is the justice in that? We live in a world where women can get away with murdering their children, an officer can get away with killing an unarmed, handcuffed man, and innocent men go to prison for years for something he didn't do. Did Gwen get her justice? Well not really. Did Jose Merel get his? No. This isn't an issue of LGBT hate or Gwen not being able to stay true to who she is; it is an issue of our system and the media not being meticulous or factual enough to make justifiable decisions when it came to locking somebody up, and letting somebody go. And here we are almost 10 years later, and we're all still struggling to make sense of it...

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  8. JM, thank you from the bottom of my heart for your input and the info that perhaps some or most were not aware of. I have many friends that range from transgender, gay, lesbian and tons of dragqueens and you know I never take their friendship for granted. They are the most amazing group of individuals you'll ever meet. I dated a transgender for a few years and we're still friends to this day. She had much self loathing for the parts she had and didn't want such as her 'thing' as she referred to it, but she wears her heart on her sleeve and would give you the shirt on her back.

    Knowing her and loving her still I wouldn't trade her for the world, so it leads to say that it's hard for me to swallow or even understand how there are people out there that could be so cruel and callous because why? Is it their own fear of not understand or they're scared because the whole idea brings forth what they fear the most: insecurity with their own identity.

    I don't feel any of them should have gotten off that easy and I'm shocked to know that one is already out? What they did to Gwen is INEXCUSABLE AND UNACCEPTABLE! Just because we're 'different' doesn't mean we're not still human beings. :sighs: You always think and hope that one day the world will change, but really, will it? Maybe in our next life...

    Thanks again JM

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  9. I wish that there was a way that all people could be happy and not go through pain and hurt but that is not reality. So I pray that you find happiness somehow. Try to love yourself it is worth it you are worth everything.

    One love, peace be with you every day of your life.

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