One man charged in killing transgender teen pleads innocent

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FREMONT, Calif. -- One of three men charged with beating and strangling to death a transgender teen after learning he was not a girl pleaded "adamantly" innocent Thursday.

"The plea is not guilty to the charge of murder and adamantly denying the hate clause enhancement," attorney Robert Beles said, speaking for defendant Jaron Nabors, 19, in Alameda County Superior Court.

The other two defendants, Jose Merel and Michael William Magidson, both 22, appeared but did not enter pleas. All three men, who are being held without bail, were ordered back in court Nov. 8.

Merel, Magidson and Nabors are each charged with murder and a hate crime enhancement in the death of 17-year-old Eddie "Gwen" Araujo, who was beaten and strangled to death after attending a party Oct. 3 at the Merel's house in Newark, a San Francisco Bay area suburb.

Araujo had been living as a girl for some time, going by the name Lida as well as Gwen, and police reports say he was killed after his true identity was uncovered at the party.

Araujo, a slim 5 foot 7 compared to six-footers Merel, Magidson and Nabors, was allegedly punched, dragged into the garage and strangled with a rope around his neck.

Araujo was reported missing by his mother. Meanwhile, rumors about what had happened to him circulated around this quiet town, finally getting back to Araujo's family members, who told police.

Nabors apparently was the first to talk, blurting out a version of what had happened to a friend while they watched Monday Night Football four days after the party, according to police reports. It was Nabors who led police to the body, buried in a shallow grave in the Sierra foothills about 150 miles east of San Francisco, police said.

Beles appeared to be trying to distance his client from the other two defendants, making a point of entering a plea while the other attorneys asked for more time. He was also the only attorney to speak with reporters outside the courthouse, defending his client as not having "a shred of homophobia."

"He's frightened," Beles said. "He feels the overwhelming tragedy of the situation. He feels horrible about what happened."

Meanwhile, the family prepared to bury Araujo with public and private services Friday. Araujo's mother, Sylvia Guererro, was in the courtroom Thursday, at times crying softly and at others maintaining a fragile composure.

Outside the courtroom, Guererro brushed away tears as she read a brief statement.

"I loved my child beyond words. I gave my child life and I simply cannot understand how anyone else thought they had the right to take the life which I gave him," she said. "I want justice for Eddie because this should never have happened and I never want it to happen to any other child or any other family."


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