Gwen Araujo

From Academic Kids

Gwen Amber Rose Araujo (February 24, 1985October 4, 2002) was a teenager who was killed at a party by a group of transphobic men angered by the discovery that she was a transwoman.

Contents

Life

Gwen lived in Newark, California, USA. Family members knew Gwen as a happy and energetic child who was always laughing and quite active. Gwen, who had originally been given the name Edward, expressed the desire to be female from an early age and just prior to her death she was experimenting with cross living. Gwen Araujo attended public school and a local church with family members until the controversy surrounding her lifestyle grew, 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 believed was the result of intolerance created by her child's gradual transition between the sexes.

Death

Gwen, 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 Gwen's to-be assailants. Gwen was reported to have engaged in sexual activities with several of the men from the group. She was later invited back to the house where a party was planned a few weeks after she and the men had first met. She wore her mother's peasant blouse to the party. Gwen's mother had asked her not to wear the clothing she had picked out for that evening and expressed her discomfort with Gwen's appearance. Gwen told her mother that she was just being jealous of her. This was the last time Sylvia Guerrero would see her child alive.

At the party on (October 3, 2002) it was discovered, by forced inspection (conducted by one of her assailants and his girlfriend), that Gwen was in fact a pre-operative transsexual woman. As rumors circulated, the men that she had sexual relations with became extremely agitated. The men, whom already began to question Gwen's sex the previous week, revisited the idea of killing her. Once it was discovered that Gwen Araujo was biologically male, she was struck on the head with a soup can and then struck again with a frying pan causing a gash to her head. The blow was so forceful that her head broke a hole through an adjacent wall. Gwen was then taken to the garage of the home, where she was strangled by rope and severely beaten again with a shovel. She was then hog-tied, wrapped in a blanket and placed in the bed of a pick-up truck. Two of the men drove her body to parkland in El Dorado County, California, a wooded area in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, where she was finally buried in a shallow grave.

Trial

Nearly two weeks passed before Gwen's body was discovered by the authorities. Partygoers present, for fear of reprisal, did not report the crime that had occurred and the assailants all agreed not to say a word to anyone about the matter. Later however, one of these men began talking to a friend and then wrote about his experience to his girlfriend from the jail where he was being held.

Alameda County Sheriff’s Department dispatched four crime scene investigators and two detectives who recovered the body at the gravesite. The deputies were led there on 16 October 2002 by Jaron Nabors, the youngest of the four individuals charged with her murder and hate crime. The four accused of the murder are: Michael Magidson, 27, Jaron Nabors, 19, Jose Merel, 24 and Jason Cazares, 23. Jaron 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 conversation with one of the accused using a wiretap.

In their trial, the men did not contest that they had killed her, but used a variant of the gay panic defence and claimed that it was not unreasonable, pleading for manslaughter rather than murder. The jury however, deadlocked, and a mistrial recorded. The jury appears to have rejected this defence, but was unable to decide whether the murders were premeditated, and so whether to convict them of first degree murder or second degree murder. Prosectors have announced they plan to go for first degree murder again at the retrial.


For an update on the retrial, currently scheduled for 9 May 2005, check out [1] (http://www.sfist.com/archives/2005/01/11/gwen_araujo_murder_trial_update.php)

Remembrance

Gwen'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 Guerrero have appeared publicly and before national media to express their grief and to denounce violence against youth faced with sexual identity conflicts.

Those who knew Gwen were joined by hundreds of sympathizers for her funeral located at St. Edward's Catholic Church in Newark. Following the ceremonies, there was a march through main streets leading to the community's mall attended by community dignitaries and leaders. Gwen was remembered again during the "Remembering Our Dead" vigils that took place in several major cities to commemorate the deaths of 27 transgendered people during the 12 month period that contained Gwen Araujo's own death.

Gwen was granted a posthumous name change on June 23, 2004.

External links

See also

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