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Nabors to get 11 years for role in Araujo's death

By Jeff Shuttleworth, Bay City News Service

August 24, 2006

HAYWARD (BCN) - The long legal saga of four young men who were responsible for the brutal beating and strangulation death of Newark transgender teenager Gwen Araujo nearly four years ago is expected to end Friday with the sentencing of 23-year-old Jaron Nabors of Newark.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Harry Sheppard will sentence Nabors to 11 years in state prison. The sentence is in conjunction with a plea agreement Nabors made with prosecutors on Feb. 25, 2003, in the middle of a preliminary hearing for all four defendants in the closely-watched case.

The agreement called for Nabors to testify against the other three men. He took the witness stand three times: once in the preliminary hearing and once each during two lengthy trials of the other men.

Araujo, 17, was born as a male named Eddie but presented herself as a woman.

According to prosecutor Chris Lamiero, the four men killed Araujo in the early morning hours of Oct. 4, 2002, 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 sexual relations with all of the men except Cazares.

The incident sparked outrage among the transgender community nationwide.

Nabors' testimony against the other three men outraged their attorneys, who called him a snitch and a liar throughout the two trials.

But Nabors' attorney, Annie Beles, said today that Nabors "explained what happened that night before anyone else cracked" and showed police where Araujo's body was buried in the El Dorado County wilderness east of Placerville.

Beles said Nabors' statements to police are "the reason the story came out in all of its horror."

She said Nabors plans to speak at his sentencing hearing and "will take full responsibility for his role" in the brutal crime.

Lamiero said Araujo's family members "understand and appreciate that Nabors was instrumental in the prosecution of the case."

Lamiero said Nabors received "a significant benefit for his cooperation" because the other defendants were prosecuted on murder charges and he was allowed to plead guilty to the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter.

But the prosecutor said Nabors' cooperation was "quite valuable."

Lamiero said Nabors was the only defendant "who expressed remorse from the beginning and accepted responsibility for his actions from the beginning."

Beles said Nabors will serve 85 percent of his 11-year sentence, or 9.3 years, which means he will be released in about five-and-a-half years.

On Jan. 27, defendants Michael Magidson, 26, of Fremont, and Jose Merel, 26, of Newark, received sentences of 15-years-to-life because jurors at their second trial last year convicted them of second-degree murder.

Jason Cazares, a 26-year-old Newark man, was sentenced on Jan. 27 to six years in state prison. He pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter in December so he wouldn't have to risk a murder conviction at a third trial.

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 last Sept. 12, jurors deadlocked 9-3 in favor of convicting Cazares of first-degree murder.

Cazares' attorney, Tony Serra, was extremely critical of Nabors in the two trials, calling him "an ugly human being" and a "pathological liar" and comparing him to a mackerel: shiny on the outside and twisted, deformed and smelly on the inside.

Serra is now in federal prison, where he is serving a 10-month sentence for his conviction for two misdemeanor counts of failing to pay a total of $44,000 in taxes in 1998 and 1999.

Copyright © 2006 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.




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