Transgender Murder Trial Set to Begin Today

Allen Ray Andrade is charged with a hate crime in the death of Angie Zapata

April 14, 2009— -- A pretty Colorado teenager was found beaten to death with a fire extinguisher last year after her date allegedly found out that she was transgendered and had male genitalia.

That murder has become a ground breaking legal case since it will be the first time an anti-transgender murder will be prosecuted as a hate crime under state law, according to the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

A coalition of anti-violence groups have put out an ad using the case to lobby for national hate crimes legislation.

The trial opens today in Greeley, Colo.

Police say Allen Ray Andrade, 32, snapped when he learned that 18-year-old Angie Zapata, who was born Justin Zapata but lived as a young woman, was biologically a man.

Andrade admitted to investigators that he beat Zapata first with his fists and then with a fire extinguisher, according to a Weld County arrest affidavit obtained by

He allegedly told investigators he thought he "killed it," referring to Zapata, before hitting her again with the fire extinguisher as she tried to get up, the affidavit says.

Zapata's body was discovered by her sister on July 17, 2008, 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.

Transgender Teen Angie Zapata Allegedly Beaten To Death

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."

Transgender Teen Angie Zapata Beaten With Fire Extinguisher

"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.

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 taking Zapata's PT Cruiser, which was missing from the murder scene, police said. 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.

Avy Skolnik, coordinator of the New York City Anti-Violence Project, told last year 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 gender -- 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 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.

'Gay Panic' Defense Unsuccessful in Hate Crime Case

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.