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Defendant in Gwen Araujo case pleads no contest to voluntary manslaughter
- Henry K. Lee, San Francisco Chronicle Staff Writer
Friday, December 16, 2005
(12-16) 12:10 PST HAYWARD -- In a dramatic turn, the fourth and final defendant charged with killing Newark transgender teen Gwen Araujo three years ago pleaded no contest today to voluntary manslaughter and will be sentenced to six years in prison.
Jason Cazares, 25, whose two trials in the slaying led to deadlocked juries and mistrials, entered his plea this morning at the Hayward Hall of Justice. He will return to court Jan. 27 for formal sentencing.
In September, a jury convicted Jose Merel and Michael Magidson, both 25, of murdering Araujo in October 2002 by beating and strangling her after learning that Araujo, with whom they'd had sex, was biologically male.
Merel and Magidson face sentences of 15 years to life in prison in the slaying, which occurred during a party at Merel's house. The defendants buried Araujo in a shallow grave in the Sierra foothills.
Jurors spent weeks deliberating during the second trial in Araujo's slaying before revealing that they were deadlocked 9-3 in favor of a second-degree murder conviction for Cazares. But they rejected allegations that the slaying was a hate crime stemming from Araujo's gender orientation. Some jurors believed the defendants killed Araujo simply to "cover up a situation that had gotten out of control," Juror Max Stern told The Chronicle in September.
The first trial ended after 10 days of deliberation in June 2004 when the jury deadlocked on the charges against all three men.
A fourth defendant, Jaron Nabors, 22, who led police to Araujo's body, pleaded guilty in 2003 to voluntary manslaughter in exchange for testifying against his friends. He is expected to receive an 11-year prison sentence.
E-mail Henry K. Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted on Fri, Dec. 16, 2005
Plea deal in killing of Newark transgender teen
HAYWARD, Calif. (AP) - One of four men charged in the beating and strangulation of transgender teenager Gwen Araujo pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter Friday. A jury had previously deadlocked in his murder trial.
Under the plea agreement, Jason Cazares, 25, will spend no more than six years in prison, according to prosecutors. His sentencing is Jan. 27.
Araujo, 17, was beaten, tied up and strangled on Oct. 4, 2002, after men she had had sexual encounters with learned she was biologically male, according to authorities.
Cazares claimed he was outside the house when his friends killed Araujo and only helped bury the body in the Sierra Nevada foothills.
A jury convicted Michael Magidson and Jose Merel, both 25, in September of second-degree murder but deadlocked 9-3 on the same charge for Cazares.
The fourth man charged in the case, Jaron Nabors, 22, was allowed to plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter in exchange for his testimony against the others.
Cazares' lawyer Tony Serra could not be reached for comment Friday.
Araujo was born a boy named Edward but grew up to believe her true identity was female. The defendants, who knew her as Lida, met Araujo in the summer of 2002.
Magidson and Merel were expected to be sentenced next month to 15-years-to-life in prison. Nabors was expected to be sentenced to 11 years.