NEWARK (KRON) — In a murder case that changed state laws, and the lives of the families involved, two of the convicted killers were released from prison years ago.
One remains behind bars, and another was recently approved for parole.
KRON4’s Alecia Reid spoke exclusively with the victim’s mother to learn more about how she came to forgive.
It was a heinous crime more than a decade ago. The scars are still fresh, yet the victim’s mother is willing to forgive her daughter’s killers.
On October 3, 2002, Gwen Araujo attended a house party in Newark. It was the last time the transgender teen was seen alive.
“There were so many hours that went by that they had time enough to stop what they were doing but they did not,” Gwen’s mother Sylvia Guerrero said.
The final hours of her life were bloody and painful.
A group of young men she’d met that summer beat, strangled, hog-tied, then buried the Newark High School student’s body in the Sierra Foothills.
“They buried her three feet deep and they placed three boulder rocks on her body so the animals wouldn’t dig her out,” Guerrero said. “The heaviest boulder rock was placed on her face. It took three sheriffs to remove that boulder rock, so it had crushed her head and the side of her face.”
No one from the party reported the crime, but two days later, one of the killers, Jaron Nabors, confided in a friend.
Two weeks later, he led deputies to her body. Nabors, Jason Cezares, Jose Merel, and Michael Magidson claimed “transpanic” as a reason for the murder.
Gwen was in fact, a biological male named Edward and that deadly night she’d had sex with 2 of her four killers.
“She did not deserve to die,” Guerrero said. “This kid was so full of life and had goals and dreams of her own.”
Nabors and Cezares both served prison time for manslaughter and have since been released. But Merel and Magidson who were intimate with Gwen both got the maximum, 15 to life for 2nd-degree murder.
Just last month, Merel’s parole was approved with the blessing of Gwen’s mother Sylvia.
She forgives Merel now saying Merel has always shown regret, and forgiveness is a part of her own healing process.
In fact, Sylvia empathizes with Merel. While in prison, his daughter died.
“When he lost her, he didn’t get to say goodbye, he no longer gets to hold her or love her, or hear her voice, just as I don’t,” Guerrero said.
But Sylvia says Magidson is still unremorseful and agrees he’s unfit to be set free.
At his own parole hearing last month, he said he needed more time in the system to deal with substance abuse issues, and his parole was denied.
“There’s just nothing there but evil and cold, and it’s really sad,” Guerrero said.
And until he acknowledges his role in her daughter’s death, Sylvia says she will continue to oppose Magidson’s release and never stop fighting for the transgender community, a promise she made at Gwen’s funeral.
“I’m proud to say that I know my daughter’s death started the whole transgender movement,” Sylvia said.
2015 held a record for transgender people killed in the U.S. with a total of 21.Unfortunately, there are still people being killed for who they are.
Unfortunately, there are still people being killed for who they are. This year’s numbers has surpassed last year’s number, with 23 trans homicides across America.
“We have a lot of work to do because there’s still a lot of danger out there, and there’s a lot of evil people out there that will do what they did to my daughter 14 years ago,” Guerrero said.
It’s been more than a decade, and the life of pain has left emotional scars. Sylvia says she now has PTSD.
Before her daughter’s murder, she was a legal secretary for nearly two decades.
“I’ve never not had my own place, my own dresser, my own closet,” Syliva said.
Now, she’s unemployed, homeless, and living in a friend’s car.
Her current plight doesn’t cloud her mission, as she continues to fight for lives that are taken because of hate.