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50 years in 50 weeks: 2006: Gwen Araujo murder

by BAR staff

Photo: Courtesy B.A.R. Archive
Photo: Courtesy B.A.R. Archive  

In 2002, trans teenager Gwen Araujo went to a house party in the East Bay city of Newark. There, she was beaten, tortured, and strangled after a group of young men — two of whom she reportedly had sex with — discovered that she was biologically male. Defendants Michael Magidson and Jose Merel claimed a "gay panic" defense but were convicted of second-degree murder in a retrial in the summer of 2005. (The first trial, in 2004, ended in a mistrial when jurors were unable to arrive at a unanimous decision regarding first-degree murder.) Defendant Jason Cazares negotiated a plea deal with prosecutors at the end of his second mistrial and pleaded no contest to manslaughter in late 2005. In February 2006, all three men were sentenced: Magidson and Merel received the mandatory sentences of 15 years-to-life, while Cazares, under his plea agreement, received six years. A fourth man, Jaron Nabors, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in 2003 and testified against the other three defendants. Over the ensuing years, Araujo's mother, Sylvia Guerrero, has spoken out against anti-trans violence but continued to be affected by Araujo's murder as well as health issues. In 2019, Magidson, the last of Araujo's killers who was still in prison, was denied parole. Guerrero wrote to the Bay Area Reporter that Magidson for the first time said that he was sorry, though she didn't believe it was sincere. (Guerrero was unable to personally attend the hearing, but her sister did.) Magidson is expected to have another parole hearing in 2024.


[Editor's note: The archived issues on https://archive.org/details/bayareareporter stop at 2005. For articles published in 2006 and later, visit www.ebar.com and issuu.com/bayareareporter.]


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