THREE DEFENDANTS SENTENCED FOR SLAYING OF ARAUJO
By Jeff Shuttleworth, Bay City News
January 27, 2006, 4:28 p.m.
HAYWARD (BCN) - Two East Bay men were sentenced
today to 15 years to life in state prison and a third was sentenced
to six years for their roles in the brutal beating and strangulation
death of Newark transgender teenager Gwen Araujo more than three
At a long and emotional hearing in a packed courtroom,
Michael Magidson, of Fremont, 25, and Jose Merel, of Newark, 26,
received the lengthier sentences because jurors at their second
trial last year convicted them of second-degree murder for the
death of Araujo, 17, at Merel's house in the early morning hours
of Oct. 4, 2002.
Jason Cazares, a 26-year-old Newark man, received
a shorter sentence because he pleaded no contest to the lesser
charge of voluntary manslaughter last month so he wouldn't have
to risk a murder conviction at a third trial.
Magidson and Merel, who have been in custody at
the county jail, will be sent to state prison next week. But Alameda
County Superior Court Judge Harry Sheppard allowed Cazares, who
has been free on $1 million bail for the past 16 months, to remain
free until March 30 so he can be present for the birth of his
child in March.
According to his lawyer, Tony Serra, Cazares only
will have to serve three years in prison because he already has
served about two years in jail.
Magidson and Merel will be eligible for parole in
15 years, but few convicted murderers have been paroled by the
state in recent years. Jurors deadlocked on the fate of all three
defendants at their first trial in 2004. In the defendants' second
trial, which ended Sept. 12, jurors deadlocked 9-3 in favor of
convicting Cazares of first-degree murder.
A fourth defendant, 22-year-old Jaron Nabors of
Newark, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter nearly three
years ago in exchange for his testimony against the other three
men. Nabors appeared at a hearing today at a separate courtroom
down the hall from the other three defendants at which his sentencing
was scheduled for May 22. His plea bargain calls for him to receive
an 11-year state prison sentence.
Araujo was born as a male named Eddie but presented
herself as a woman.
According to prosecutor Chris Lamiero, the four
men killed Araujo following a night of drinking and smoking marijuana
when they discovered that the beautiful woman they'd been socializing
with for several months actually was a biological male.
According to testimony in the two trials, Araujo
had sex with all of the men except Cazares.
The incident sparked outrage among the transgender
After sitting through two long trials at which the
horrid details of Araujo's death were discussed at length, Araujo's
numerous family members finally had an opportunity today to tell
the defendants how Araujo's death has affected them. They spoke
for about an hour.
Araujo's mother, Sylvia Guerrero, told the three
men, "I'll never go back to being the person I was"
and said her entire family has been "given a lifetime sentence
She also said she's been so affected by Araujo's
death that she hasn't gone back to the legal secretary position
she held for 16 years. Araujo's sister, Pearl Serrano, said, "Life
without Gwen has been unbearable. Our mother will never be the
same and has constant nightmares."
Serrano told the defendants, "You don't have
the right to take the life of someone else, whether they're gay,
straight or transgender. We're all human beings."
Araujo's aunt, Emma Rodrigues, said she was disgusted
by the finger-pointing among the four men who were with Araujo
the night she was killed as to who was most to blame.
Rodrigues said, "It's irrelevant who struck
the first blow. There were four grown men there and they did nothing
to stop her death."
She said Araujo "used poor judgment" in
partying with the four men over a period of several months, but
she said Araujo "shouldn't have paid for that mistake with
Rodrigues said hanging out with the four men "validated
her feelings of being a beautiful young woman.
She said that because Araujo was transgender, "She
was rejected at school, at church and even by her own family."
Rodrigues said that one time Araujo opened a Bible
and asked, "Where does God have a place for people like me?"
Before he was sentenced, Merel said, "From
the bottom of my heart, I'm sincerely sorry. I wish I could erase
Referring to the name by which the four men knew
Araujo, Merel said, "I know I didn't kill Lida and I didn't
expect her to die."
He told her family members, "I know you will
never forgive me, but I hope you will at least try."
In contrast, Magidson was unapologetic and unremorseful.
"This case was based entirely on lies by the
witnesses and my co-defendants and encouraged by the prosecutor."
He said, "I'm here with my head held high"
and claimed, "I didn't receive a fair trial."
Magidson said, "No one in this courtroom seems
ready to face the truth."
Judge Sheppard was outraged at Magidson's comments,
telling him, "Based on your remarks, I don't find you to
be remorseful at all. You're blaming the district attorney and
The judge said, "You haven't expressed at all
that you're sorry."
At the request of Magidson's lawyer, Michael Thorman,
Sheppard had stricken from Magidson's probation report a statement
that there are doubts he could be rehabilitated because he hadn't
expressed any remorse.
But after Magidson's comment in court, the judge
re-inserted the probation officer's finding that Magidson is unlikely
to be rehabilitated. Following the hearing, Lamiero said, "Mr.
Magidson didn't do himself any favors" with his statement
The prosecutor said "his words will come back
to haunt him" when he's up for parole with the state Board
of Prison Terms because officials will be allowed to take his
words into consideration.
As for the case as a whole, Lamiero said, "I
would hope it makes the statement that you don't get to kill and
make excuses just designed to suit you and your sensibilities."
He said he also hoped, "It will send a message
to people in general that you're entitled to be who you are and
no one has the right to take that away from you."
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