Murder Trial Nears End

Times Staff Writer

Moments into his closing arguments Wednesday, Alameda County Deputy Dist. Atty. Chris Lamiero directed the jury’s attention to the suspected ringleader of three men accused of killing Bay Area transgender teenager Gwen Araujo three years ago.

“Take a look at this man in the black suit and tie,” he said, pointing at Michael Magidson, 25, who took notes at the defendants’ table. “What you’re looking at is the killer -- a narcissistic, self-absorbed, egotistical, shallow, coldhearted killer.”

Those words began a final phase of a three-month-long retrial of the three men accused of killing Araujo at a party in October 2002 after accusing the teen of deceiving them into believing she was biologically female.

After a night of heavy drinking, Magidson, Jason Cazares, and Jose Merel confronted the 17-year-old about her true biological orientation, according to testimony. Magidson and Merel had previously had sex with Araujo.


The teen, who lived and identified as a girl, assuming the name of her favorite pop singer, Gwen Stefani, was then attacked inside a dingy tract house in Newark, 30 minutes southeast of San Francisco.

Araujo was kicked and beaten with a soup can and iron skillet, smashed with a shovel and strangled with a rope. Just before dawn, the three suspects allegedly buried Araujo’s body near a secluded campsite in the Sierra foothills before ordering breakfast at a nearby McDonald’s. Each faces a sentence of life in prison if convicted.

Last year, the first trial of the partying cohorts, who often called themselves “the Three Stooges,” ended with the jury deadlocked on the charges. The three face murder and hate crime counts.

Joining the packed courtroom Wednesday, Araujo’s grandmother and mother wiped away tears as they listened to the onset of the closing arguments, which may last several days as defense attorneys for each defendant present their conclusions to the jury.


Sylvia Guerrero, Araujo’s mother, has avoided the most graphic testimony and told reporters before Wednesday’s proceedings that she is still coming to terms with her child’s grisly killing. “It’s been hard,” she said.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Harry R. Sheppard has issued a gag order on the attorneys in the case.

During his hourlong evidence summation, Lamiero left no doubt about who he believed to be the main culprit in the killing. He motioned repeatedly to Magidson, whom he called “a poor excuse for a man” who offered a “stupid and moronic” litany of excuses for the killing.

He asked the jury to return first-degree murder verdicts against Magidson and Cazares, emphasizing that it was Magidson who finally strangled Araujo. He said Merel’s role did not merit such a severe verdict.


“Think about wrapping a rope around the neck of a living human being and squeezing it tighter and tighter and tighter and tighter,” he said of Magidson.