TIMELINE: How the murder of transgender teenager Gwen Araujo unfolded

She was killed 20 years ago. But her murder is still important today. Here's what happened to Bay Area trans teen Gwen Araujo.

ByJuan Carlos Guerrero via KGO logo
Friday, November 18, 2022
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Gwen Araujo was a transgender teenager from the SF Bay Area who was killed 20 years ago by men who claimed they were deceived by her sexual identity.

NEWARK, Calif., (KGO) -- The murder of Gwen Araujo in 2002 marked a turning point in the fight for transgender rights. The 17-year-old from the San Francisco Bay Area was punched, beaten and eventually strangled to death when several men discovered she was a transgender woman.

Below, you'll find a timeline of how the life and death of Gwen unfolded.

Watch the ABC7 Originals documentary, "Being Gwen: A Life and Death Story," streaming now in the video player above and on the ABC Owned Television Stations' connected TV Apps: ABC7 Bay Area, ABC30 Central California, ABC7 Los Angeles, ABC7 New York, ABC7 Chicago, 6abc Philadelphia, ABC13 Houston, and ABC11 Raleigh-Durham.

Feb. 24, 1985

Gwen Araujo is born to Sylvia Guerrero and Edward Araujo. She is born with male genitalia and raised as a boy by her family, who call her Eddie.

July 4, 1999

At age 14, Eddie tells his mom that he feels like a girl trapped in a boy's body. Eddie then began transitioning as a woman and called herself Gwen, after her favorite singer Gwen Stefani.

Late summer 2002

In her third year of living as a woman, Araujo began hanging out with several men that she met in the late summer of 2002. They are 22-year-old Michael Magidson, 22-year-old José Merél, 22-year-old Jason Cazares, and 19-year-old and Jaron Nabors.

According to court testimony, Araujo, whom the men knew a Lida, engaged in sexual activity with Michael Magidson and José Merél. The men became suspicious that Araujo was not biologically female because she did not let them touch her genitalia.

Oct. 3, 2002

Araujo attended a party at the house José Merél shared with his younger brother, Manny, and his older brother Paul, who also had previously engaged in sexual acts with Gwen. Cazares and Nabors were also at the house, as was Paul Merél's girlfriend, Nicole Brown.

By early morning on Oct. 4, the men questioned Araujo and demanded to know if she is biologically male.

Brown grabbed Araujo's crotch during a confrontation in the bathroom and revealed she had male genitalia. The men become enraged and Magidson punched Araujo. José Merél, who cried in anguish about having sex with Araujo, then struck her with a frying pan and a can of food.

Manny later testified that he tried to get Araujo out of the house but was stopped by the other men. Nicole Brown, Paul Merél and Emmanual Merél left the house while Araujo was still bleeding in the living room.

Nabors testified that Magidson then strangled Araujo with a rope. Magidson, José Merél, Cazares and Nabors then drove four hours to the Silver Forks campground in El Dorado National Forest to buy Araujo's body.

Oct. 5, 2002

Araujo's mom reports her missing to police.

Oct. 9, 2002

Araujo's family hears rumors about the confrontation and provide information to police, who then get a friend of Nabors to wear a wire from which they record Nabors talking about the murder.

Police then question Nabors, Magidson and José Merél.

Oct. 15, 2002

Nabors takes police to the site where they buried Araujo's body. The Alameda County coroner's report said Araujo died by strangulation and blunt force trauma to the head.

Oct. 18, 2002

Magidson, José Merél and Nabors were arraigned for Araujo's murder in a Fremont courtroom.

Oct. 25, 2002

Araujo's funeral is held at St. Edward's Catholic Church in Newark. Her mother released 17 butterflies in her memory. Araujo's remains are cremated.

Nov. 16, 2002

Police arrest a fourth suspect in Araujo's murder, Jason Cazares.

Feb. 24, 2003

Jaron Nabors pleads guilty to voluntary manslaughter and agrees to testify against his three friends in exchange for an 11 year prison term.

Oct. 3, 2003

A year after Araujo's death, her mother accepts an award from the Horizons Foundation to speak at local schools and promote a better understanding of transgender people. Sylvia Guerrero has faced hardship since Araujo's death. She lost her job and suffers from post-traumatic stress.

March 15, 2004

The Gwen Araujo murder trial begins in a Hayward courtroom. Over the course of the trial, defense attorney Tony Serra, who represented Jason Cazares, attacked the credibility of Jaron Nabors, whom he accused of being the primary aggressor and blaming his friends for the murder.

May 24, 2004

The defense maintains Araujo tricked the defendants into sexual relations. A psychologist called by the defense tells the jury that a young man is likely to panic and overreact with violence if he finds out that a woman he was sexually intimate with turns out to be biologically male.

June 22, 2004

The jury is unable to reach a guilty verdict and the judge declares mistrial. The jury deadlocked 7-5 in favor of convicting Magidson on a first-degree murder charge. And was stuck 10-2 in favor of acquitting José Merél and Jason Cazares of the same charge. Activists decry the decision as a setback for transgender rights.

Deputy District Attorney Chris Lamiero announced he will seek a second trial.

June 23, 2004

The day after the mistrial, a judge grants a request by the mother of Gwen Araujo to legally change her name from Edward Araujo Jr. to Gwen Amber Rose Araujo. Sylvia Guerrero said that she wants attorneys to refer to her daughter as Gwen when the case is retried.

June 24, 2004

Sylvia Guerrero spoke at the first Trans March held on the Friday before the Pride Parade in San Francisco. An estimated 3,000 marched from Dolores Park to Civic Center where a rally was held.

May 9, 2005

Jury selection begins for the second trial. The presiding judge issued a gag order barring attorney from talking to the media. José Merél testified and admitted he was ignorant about his thinking about sexuality at the time of the murder. Merél refused to answer the prosecutor's questions about how Araujo died. Magidson also testified and under cross-examination said he received oral sex from Araujo the night she was killed.

Sept. 12, 2005

The jury finds Michael Magidson and José Merél guilty of second-degree murder. Neither defendants was convicted of a hate crime. The jury deadlocked 9-3 in favor of also convicting Jason Cazares. At a vigil later that evening at the LGBT Center in San Francisco, advocated lamented the men were not convicted of first-degree murder but still called the verdict a huge victory for the transgender rights.

Jan. 27, 2006

Michael Magidson and José Merél were sentenced to 15 years to life for killing Gwen Araujo.

Jason Cazares struck a deal with prosecutors to avoid a third trial and accepted a six-year prison sentence for involuntary manslaughter. Jaron Nabors was sentenced to 11 years in prison. At the sentencing, Merél apologized to Araujo's family but Magidson did not show any remorse.

Sept. 28, 2006

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signs the Gwen Araujo Justice for Victims Act. The law requires that juries must be informed that they are forbidden from making decisions based on any victim's gender or sexual orientation.

Sept. 29, 2014

California becomes the first state in the nation to ban a "trans panic" defense. The law, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, states that fear or surprise of a victim's sexual orientation or gender identity may not be used a legal defense to justify an assault.

If you or a loved one are experiencing a mental health crisis and need to connect with a qualified LGBTQ+ crisis responder. Get the support you need. LGBTQ+ resources are available: abc7news.com/TakeAction