Gwen Araujo: California Transgender Teen’s Killing On ID’s ‘Murder Among Friends,’ Cazares, Nabors, Released

Gwen Araujo, 17, was a transgender California teen who was found buried in the wilderness. Her death is the subject of the latest episode of Murder Among Friends on Investigation Discovery. Gwen Araujo was strangled and beaten at a house party before she was discarded in a shallow grave in California’s Sierra Foothills 15 years ago. Four males were charged in her death: Michael Magidson, 22; Jose Merel, 22; Jason Cazares, 22; and Jaron Nabors, 19. Thursday’s Murder Among Friends episode is titled “Murder Party.”

Some Women Were Jealous Of Gwen Araujo

Born Edward Araujo, Gwen was biologically a male, but she later identified as female. As a child, Gwen loved butterflies and always believed she was a girl. She often faced ridicule and bullying at school for her position.

When the aspiring makeup artist became a teen, Gwen began putting on makeup, wearing her hair long, and dressing in sexy clothing. All the guys thought Gwen Araujo was hot, and by many accounts, she was so pretty she made even some women jealous.

A Tragic End For Transgender Teen

Gwen Araujo’s mother reported her missing in October of 2002 after she failed to return home from a party in Newark. Her child’s body was discovered in the mountains near a campsite.

Sadly, Gwen Araujo’s secret was first exposed by a girl named Nicole Brown. Authorities say Nicole became so curious about Gwen that she decided to feel under her clothing to confirm she was really a female. According to SF Gate, Nicole Brown made the following statement.

“I thought I felt a penis. This is a f — ing man.”

Gwen’s So-Called Friends Killed Her

Nicole Brown voiced her suspicions at that party. When they confronted Gwen, everyone learned the truth. In anger, the guys beat Gwen with a soup can, an iron skillet, and a shovel, according to the Los Angeles Times. Court records show two men charged in her death were sexually intimate with her, believing she was a girl.


In 2002, the transgendered teen’s death made national headlines. Vigils were held in her memory, and some conservative right-wing church members rallied to support the killers.

In the years since Gwen Araujo’s death, transgender people say things are much better than they were 15 years ago. However, transgender people are still killed.

Some say they don’t believe Gwen Araujo should have been killed but can understand why she was murdered. In 2006, Lifetime Television turned her story into a movie. It was called A Girl Like Me: The Gwen Araujo Story.


According to the California Department of Corrections, Michael Magidson and Jose Merel received 15 years to life. Jose was granted parole in 2016, NBC Bay Area reported. However, as of today, Jose Merel is still listed in the inmate database. Michael Magidson is at the Valley State Prison and Jose Merel is in Soledad.

California prison officials released Jason Cazares from prison years ago. Jaron Nabors was sentenced to 11 years in prison. He was also released.

Murder Among Friends airs this Thursday at 9 p.m. on Investigation Discovery’s channel.

[Featured Image by Anda Chu/AP Images]