Press Room

April 19, 2004


HRC Condemns Araujo Killers’ Claims of ‘Panic’ and ‘Deception’

'When Gwen was brutally murdered, she was the only one who felt panic, not her attackers,' said HRC President Cheryl Jacques.

WASHINGTON - The Human Rights Campaign condemned claims of "panic" and "deception" asserted by the defense attorneys in the Gwen Araujo murder trial. A 17-year-old transgender woman, Araujo was viciously attacked and killed Oct. 3, 2002 in Newark, Calif., by four of her peers. Opening statements in the murder trial of three of the men began April 15, 2004, in Hayward, Calif.

"When Gwen was brutally murdered, she was the only one who felt panic, not her attackers," said HRC President Cheryl Jacques. "Blaming Gwen for her own murder is shameful. Gwen lived as a woman because that was who she was. That's integrity and honesty, nothing less."

Araujo was beaten severely - using fists, canned goods and a metal skillet - then strangled to death. Her attackers then wrapped her in blankets and hit her in the head with a shovel before placing her body in a pickup truck. She was driven to a remote location and buried in a shallow gave near South Lake Tahoe, where her body was found two weeks later after one of her attackers, Jaron Nabors, 20, confessed to police. Three men - Michael Magidson, 23, and Jose Merel and Jason Cazares, both 24 - are on trial for her murder. Nabors was also charged but pleaded guilty to manslaughter and, in exchange for testifying against the others, was promised an 11-year prison sentence.

Defense attorneys have claimed that Gwen "deceived" her attackers and that learning Gwen's biological sex caused one defendant to become enraged "beyond reason." One attorney claimed that no hate crime had been committed.
"Gwen's murder was motivated by hatred to maintain anything else is the real deception," added Jacques.

The Human Rights Campaign is the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender political organization with members throughout the country. It effectively lobbies Congress, provides campaign support and educates the public to ensure that LGBT Americans can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community.