The couple divorced in October 2007. With her life in shambles, Nikki said she turned to God.
"When I spent two weeks in the Wharton County Jail with a Bible, I realized how important it was to pull myself together," she said. "So, I got out of jail and grabbed hold of God, quickly."
She began attending church regularly. There, she met Thomas Araguz and was instantly attracted to him.
Having both recently gotten out of bitter divorces, the two were apprehensive at first about pursuing a relationship, she said. But after a few innocent dates, which included her meeting his two sons, she knew the relationship was progressing.
"We were quickly, obviously developing a relationship that required the same level of honesty that I gave Emilio," she said. "What I said was I have a birth defect and it could be identified as being transgendered. And he was like, 'What are you talking about?'"
She said she explained to her future husband that she was born a male and that he asked to see her body. As with Mata, she said she also revealed to Araguz that she was HIV positive.
She said he accepted her and their relationship continued to progress. The couple married in the summer of 2008 and two months later her dream of physically becoming a woman finally came true.
With the $18,500 cost saved, Nikki Araguz flew to Colorado for sexual reassignment surgery. She said her husband knew about the procedure and fully supported her.
When she returned from Colorado, she said it was her husband who nursed her through several weeks of recovery. The couple then was finally able to be intimate in the way Nikki Araguz had always dreamed of.
"I had a new opportunity with my husband, to make love to him as a full woman," she said. "It was like we were built for each other physically. It was the most beautiful experience of my entire life."
In April 2010, just two months before his tragic death, Thomas Araguz was in court with his ex-wife Heather Delgado looking to renegotiate their custody agreement.
While being deposed under oath, he was asked if he had ever seen his wife's birth certificate and: "Would it surprise you if it said 'male' on her birth certificate?" He replied, "Yes," and went on to testify that he was not aware of any change his wife had made to her anatomy and that he had no knowledge she had ever gone by the name Justin.
Nikki Araguz said her husband never told anyone in his conservative family about her being transgender because he worried they would not understand. She said he went into the custody deposition prepared to lie when asked about her gender, fearing honesty would mean losing his children.
But those answers now are being used against Nikki Araguz in a lawsuit filed by her husband's family.
Since Thomas Araguz died in the line of duty, there are death benefits totaling as much as $1 million to be claimed by his surviving heirs. The lawsuit attempts to block Nikki Araguz from collecting her share of that money, alleging he never knew she was born male.
Under Texas law, gender is determined at birth and same sex marriage is not recognized, so according to the Araguz family attorneys, the person known as Nikki Araguz misrepresented herself and never should have been permitted to marry Thomas Araguz.