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April 11th

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corner Gwen Araujo 1 corner






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He was a beautiful person inside and out


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rose Gwen Amber Rose Araujo

February 24, 1985
October 3, 2002

"This murder is both sickening and sad"

Eddie Araujo

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Born Eddie Araujo in the small town of Brawley east of San Diego near the Mexican border, Eddie began displaying feminine qualities at an early age, his mother said. Sylvia Guerrero and Edward Araujo divorced shortly after their son was born, and she eventually moved with her children to a town house on Jarvis Avenue in Newark.

Eddie attended grammar school at Snow Elementary School, played Little League baseball and enjoyed hunting and fishing. But an aunt said Araujo began wearing girl's shoes before the age of 10, and lipstick and nail polish while a student at Newark Junior High School.

The family moved to Fremont in 1999, and Araujo attended American High School as a freshman. Araujo's attendance was sporadic, however, and the teen wound up at Bridgepoint Continuation School in Newark. There, Araujo wore more feminine apparel, enough to confuse teachers about the "Edward" on enrollment slips.

Gwen AraujoGradually, the fun-loving, sensitive Gwen emerged. To the party crowd, she was flirtatious Lida.

Eddie - Gwen - Lida.

At various times, the transgender teen with the high cheekbones and pretty eyes was all three.

At age 14, Eddie worked up the courage to come out to his family. He called himself Gwen and lived as a young woman, growing long hair and wearing crop-tops and women's jeans. He dreamed of becoming a famous Hollywood makeup artist.

Eddie, 17, had borrowed her mother's peasant blouse and a friend's miniskirt to wear to the party. She said that it was the first time he had worn a skirt out and that she had warned him she was afraid he might still look too "manly."

Gwen so attended her first party dressed as a young woman October 3 and was killed for it in Newark, California. When girls at the party discovered Gwen was someone they knew as Eddie, word quickly spread to Michael Magidson, 22, Jason Nabors, 19, and Joe Merel, 24, who have been charged with beating Araujo into semi-consciousness, dragging her into a garage, and tightening a rope around her neck until she appeared dead, the Los Angeles Times reported. They then buried her in the countryside. The party had been at Merel's house.

"His tombstone will say Gwen," Araujo's mother, Sylvia Guerrero, 38, said Friday. "This kid was a great kid, and he suffered so much. He's my Gwen, and he's beautiful. I just wish I could have saved him from this."

Araujo's family was supportive of her and buried her in a dress. They have established a fund in her memory. Contributions can be sent to the Eddie/Gwen Aruajo Memorial Fund, San Benito Bank, 300 Tres Pinos Road, Hollister, CA 95023-5578. For more information, call 831.637.2265.

Guerrero brought her activism to the courts to request the legal name change of her slain daughter. Gwen had been living as a woman since the age of fourteen, and chose her name in honor of her favorite singer, Gwen Stefani of the band "No Doubt". The California superior court recognized Gwen Araujo and approved a posthumous name change from her birth name of Eddie. Her middle name of Amber Rose was chosen by Guerrero. It had been the name intended for her child had she given birth to a girl.

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Magidson - Merel - CazaresThe Men Charged in Brutally Beating Eddie 'Gwen' Araujo to Death.

From left: Jose Merel, Michael Magidson and Jason Nabors.

[Chronicle photo by Paul Chinn]

While attending a party at Merel's Newark home, in her mother's skirt and flawless make-up, her supposed friends discovered that she was in fact "biologically" a male. The men had speculated about the true gender of Araujo, an attractive girl from the neighborhood that they knew as "Lida." According to Nabors' testimony, at one point they sat around Merel's kitchen table and discussed a "Tony Soprano-type" murder and a plot to "get rid of her body" if their suspicions of her anatomical maleness were confirmed.

Araujo was attacked after Paul Merel's girlfriend emerged from a bathroom that Araujo had been using and announced that he was male, according to police reports. It was not clear how many of the dozen partygoers saw the attack or kept quiet about what happened. Jose Merel, Nabors and Magidson slapped, punched Araujo in the face, kicked, hit in the head with a frying pan, then dragged him, semiconscious, to the garage. Cazares then told Nabors to go with him to his house to retrieve shovels. Once they returned, Magidson strangled Araujo, hogtied her and wrapped her in a blanket, and Cazares finished by twice smashing the teen in the head with a shovel and strangled her.

Magidson, Merel, Cazares and a fourth man, Jaron Nabors, dumped the body in the back of Magidson's pickup truck and drove 150 miles east to the Sierra foothills, where they buried Araujo in a shallow grave.

Two weeks after Araujo's disappearance, Nabors, a waiter at a San Leandro restaurant, led police to the grave. After cutting a deal with prosecutors during a preliminary hearing last year, he is expected to be the star witness against the other three men. Araujo's body was found clad in women's clothing and wrapped in a blanket. His hands and feet were tied up, police said. He died of strangulation and blunt-force trauma to the head.

What might be disturbing is that the murder occurred in the garage of the house, while a dozen young adults partied nearby. Araujo's friend Crystal Mason, 17, was enraged. "She was at a large party, taken to the garage, beaten and then strangled. No one heard? No one helped?"

The killers

Michael William Magidson, 23, of Fremont, Jose Antonio Merel and Jason Cazares, both 24 of Newark, all attended Newark Memorial High School. They often gathered at Jaron Chase Nabors's home to play dominoes, drink beer and smoke marijuana, according to police.

Magidson started high school at Fremont Christian School, but he transferred to Newark Memorial for his junior year. He failed to graduate, but he passed the California High School proficiency test in 1997.

He worked for three years installing fiber-optic cables but was laid off from a Milpitas company and was working temporary jobs at the time of his arrest.

Friends say he enjoyed soccer and played in local recreational leagues.

Merel graduated in 1998 from Newark Memorial, where he played varsity football and baseball.

After graduating, he worked sorting mail at an Oakland post office, then at The Home Depot in Fremont. In 2001, he worked in the communications department at Stanford University Hospital. In January 2002, he began delivering furniture for a Hayward company.

Cazares attended Newark Memorial in the late 1990s but did not graduate. He worked in construction.

An avid soccer player, Cazares played in a Newark city league and helped coach his teenage brother's team. He has three siblings.

In early November 2002, shortly before he was arrested, he moved into a Newark condominium with his girlfriend and older daughter, who will turn 5 in April. His youngest daughter, now 8 months old, was born while he was in custody.

All "normal" people, isn't it?

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Speaking at her home in Newark, a distraught mother described a loving relationship with her child, who never felt like he was male and had struggled his whole life to be accepted for who he was.

She said she suspected her son was gay since he was just a toddler. His older sister, Pearl, said by the time Araujo reached junior high school, he was tormented because of his voice and the way he carried himself, she said. His grades began to slip.

"Ever since he was little, I always protected him," she said. "But by the eighth grade, people started calling him names. The f-word, faggot."

An avid music fan, Araujo took the name Gwen after his favorite musician, Gwen Stefani, the lead singer of the rock group No Doubt. He also used Wendy and Lida.

Araujo attended an alternative high school and didn't return this fall, school officials said. He was also turned down for several jobs because he didn't look like the legal name -- Eddie Araujo -- he wrote on his application, his mother said.

"He went through a lot of pain, and people didn't respect him," Guerrero said. "It took a lot of guts. He's strong, and he finally came out."

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©2005 San Francisco Chronicle et alii

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Eddie was finally living as Gwen as always knew to be. And in the end that have cost him her life

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