A man accused in the beating death of a transgender teenager he met online snapped when he learned in person that the 18-year-old living as a woman had male sex organs, authorities in Colorado said Wednesday.
Allen Ray Andrade, 32, is currently charged with second-degree murder in the death of Angie Zapata, who was born Justin Zapata but lived as a young woman. Andrade is being held without bond. It was unclear whether he has hired an attorney.
Prosecutors have 72 hours to file charges, including a possible first-degree murder commission of a hate crime. Andrade admitted to investigators that he beat Zapata first with his fists and then with a fire extinguisher after he grabbed her genitalia and discovered Zapata had a penis, according to a Weld County arrest affidavit obtained by ABCNews.com.
Zapata's body was discovered by her sister on July 17 inside her Greeley, Colo., apartment. She had been fatally beaten, with blunt force trauma around her head, according to the Weld County Coroner's Office.
Andrade told investigators that he and Zapata met on the social networking Web site MocoSpace, according to the affidavit. They arranged to meet and on July 15, Andrade, who has a criminal record in neighboring Adams County, said that Zapata attended a court hearing with him. Later that day, Zapata allegedly performed oral sex on Andrade but refused to let him touch her sexually.
The following day, according to the affidavit, Zapata left Andrade alone at her apartment. The suspect told investigators that he noticed photographs that, coupled with her reluctance the previous day, raised questions about "Zapata's sex."
Later on July 16, Andrade said he asked Zapata outright whether she was a man or woman. "I am all woman," Zapata allegedly told him, according to the affidavit. He asked for proof and when she refused, Andrade told investigators, he "grabbed Zapata's genital area and felt a penis."
"Andrade indicated he became angered by his discovery and struck victim Zapata with his fists," according to the affidavit. He then grabbed a fire extinguisher, he said, and struck her twice.
He told investigators he thought he "killed it," referring to Zapata. As he prepared to flee, Andrade said, he heard Zapata "gurgling" and saw her start to sit up, then he hit her in the head again with the fire extinguisher, according to the affidavit.
The suspect admitted to taking Zapata's PT Cruiser, which was missing from the murder scene. On July 28, a credit card in Zapata's name was used at multiple gas stations in the greater Denver area, according to police. Andrade also admitted to taking Zapata's purse and cell phone, which have not been recovered.
Authorities arrested Andrade in Thornton, Colo., early Thursday morning after responding to a noise call at an apartment complex. They found Andrade, who was wanted on traffic-related warrants, inside Zapata's car. They arrested him immediately on the outstanding warrants and for stealing Zapata's car, Jerry Garner, police chief in Greeley, said at Wednesday's news conference.
Weld County District Attorney Kenneth Buck said his office must now decide whether to bring additional charges against the suspect, including the possibility of a hate crime charge or a first-degree murder charge if prosecutors determine "premeditation."
"The crime that we are looking at here just can't be tolerated anywhere," Buck said at a news conference Wednesday. "I hope that if anything positive were to come of this we would build a stronger relationship with the gay, lesbian and transgender community so they understand just how seriously we take these cases."
Crystal Middlestadt, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Anti-Violence Program said the group will wait for the prosecutor's final decision before commenting.
"There is a possibility that the suspect did have bias against transgender women," Middlestadt told ABCNews.com. "Regardless of whether those formal charges are filed, it's important to notice that these type of crimes affect the gay, lesbian and transgender community."
Last week, the Colorado Anti-Violence Program, working with Zapata's family, issued a statement asking for the public's help finding Zapata's car and condemning the crime as possibly motivated by an anti-transgender bias.
"We want the whole community involved to find this person who hurt my sister and to let everyone be aware that all she wanted was to be beautiful," Angle's sister, Monica, said in the statement. "We want this violence to end. Transgender people deserve to be treated with respect."
Avy Skolnik, coordinator of the New York City Anti-Violence Project, said that certain details in the Weld County affidavit point to a bias motive, specifically Andrade's use of the word "it" to describe Zapata. "That's a very common and very tragic slur used by people who express anti-transgender bias."
Slonik said that "gay panic" has been used -- largely unsuccessfully -- as a defense in violent crime cases involving gay and lesbian targets in the past. "We're seeing the parallel thing happening with transgender folks," he said. "But not knowing what someone's genitalia is not a reason for violence of any shape or form."
Slonik said that many transgender people struggle to know when the best time is to speak openly about their genitalia -- a disclosure not expected of non-trans individuals.
Mara Keisling, the executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said that society must do a better job of educating young people about gay, lesbian and transgender issues.
"Angie was not murdered because she did something wrong," Keisling said. "Angie was murdered because a criminal was taught to disrespect. Anyone who would have the nerve to claim they beat someone with a fire hydrant because they found out they had male genitalia. What kind of society do we live in when where that is being used as an excuse?"
There were 177 bias-motivated incidents against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals in Colorado in 2007, according to data collected by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs. That number was down from 242 in 2006, but the severity of the incidents, according to the report, intensified.
Sexual-orientation bias accounted for more than 15 percent of the 7,722 total hate crime incidents in the United States in 2006, according to the FBI's Bureau of Investigation Statistics, which also tracks crimes based on race, religion, ethnicity and disability. In more than 60 percent of these incidents, homosexual men were targeted.
The 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, a gay student at the University of Wyoming, put a spotlight on hate crimes targeting homosexuals. A pair of men posing as gay bargoers kidnapped and tortured Shepard, beating him into a coma. He was alive when a cyclist found him, but later died of brain damage suffered during the attack.
The two suspects, who were convicted, tried to use "gay panic" as part of their defense.
Shepard's murder has inspired lawmakers in Washington, who have spent years trying to pass measures aimed at strengthening existing federal hate crime laws to make it easier to prosecute crimes based on sexual orientation bias. The bill, officially called the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007, is also known as the Matthew Shepard Act. Versions of the bill have passed both the House and Senate, but the bias provisions were dropped during conference.
Hate crime laws exist in all 50 states, but vary from state to state and do not all include crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity.