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Man Testifies on His Role in Teen’s Death

Special to The Times

One of four young men charged in the killing of transgender teenager Eddie “Gwen” Araujo testified against his co-defendants Monday, saying that they slapped the victim and beat him on the head with a frying pan after learning he was a man.

Jaron Chase Nabors said Araujo pleaded with his attackers to stop, begging them, “No! Please don’t! I have a family!”

But the attack continued, Nabors said, and Araujo’s intended fate became clear.

Nabors said he and another defendant, Jason Michael Cazares, left the house where the alleged attack occurred, got into a pickup truck and drove away, leaving the bleeding but still conscious victim behind with the two other defendants, Jose Antonio Merel and Michael William Magidson.

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“Jason said, ‘We’re going to my house to get some shovels, because they are going to kill [Araujo],’ ” Nabors testified.

Nabors said he and Cazares returned with the tools. But before he could testify further, court was recessed for the day.

Nabors, 19, took the stand only a few hours after he struck a deal with prosecutors, pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter in exchange for his testimony. His co-defendants slouched in their seats as he spoke, his voice quavering and his eyes brimming with tears.

Members of the victim’s family sat in silence as Nabors testified, rushing from the courtroom after Monday’s session ended.

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The family’s lawyer, Gloria Allred, said the testimony was especially hard on the victim’s mother, Sylvia Guerrero.

“It was horrible beyond belief for her,” Allred said.

Under the agreement reached Monday during his preliminary hearing, Nabors will serve 11 years in state prison. Before the deal, Nabors, who led police to Araujo’s body, had faced a murder charge that carried a possible sentence of 25 years to life.

Cazares, 22; Merel, 23; and Magidson, 22, have pleaded not guilty to murder charges filed under California’s hate-crime statute. The hate-crime enhancement against Nabors was dropped as part of his plea agreement.

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Prosecutors say Araujo was killed early on Oct. 4, after the defendants, at least two of whom had previously had sexual relations with the 17-year-old victim, learned that he was biologically male.

Police said that on the night of Oct. 3, the defendants and Araujo, who used the names Gwen and Lida, were among a dozen young people attending a party in the Bay Area town of Newark.

Officers said another guest at the party, Nicole Brown, discovered Araujo’s secret after taking him into a bathroom. When Brown came out, she told the defendants that Araujo, who dressed and lived as a girl, was male.

Nabors testified that Magidson then started tugging at Araujo’s clothing, trying to expose him.

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Araujo “was curling up, trying to prevent Mike from doing that,” Nabors said.

But Magidson succeeded, Nabors said, and he then slapped Araujo in the face and tried to choke him. Nabors said Merel picked up an unopened can of soup from the kitchen and struck Araujo in the head, so forcefully that the can was dented.

Despite Araujo’s pleas, Merel then took a frying pan from the kitchen and struck him, Nabors said.

He said he and Cazares then left to get the shovels and pick, and when they returned, they found Araujo silently “sitting on the couch with her hands in her lap and blood on her face.”

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The defendants dragged Araujo into a garage and garroted him with the rope, investigators said. They said the defendants then drove Araujo to the Sierra foothills and buried him. It is not clear when Araujo died.

About two weeks later, Nabors led police to the shallow grave containing Araujo’s body, which was bound hand and foot and clad in a party dress.

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Associated Press contributed to this report.

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