Man found guilty in death of transgender woman
April 22, 2009
GREELEY ” A jury took only two hours Wednesday to convict a Thornton man of first-degree murder and a hate crime in the savage beating death of a transgender woman.
Prosecutors argued Allen Andrade, 32, had known for hours that 18-year-old Angie Zapata was biologically male and beat her with a fire extinguisher because he disliked gays.
The defense didn’t deny that Andrade killed Zapata but said Andrade had just learned Zapata’s identity after spending hours with her and lashed out without thinking.
The judge sentenced Andrade to life in prison without parole, the mandatory term for first-degree murder.
Andrade was also convicted of a bias-motivated crime, Colorado’s version of a hate crime. It’s believed to be the first time anyone has been prosecuted under that state statute for a crime involving a transgender person.
He was also convicted of auto theft and identity theft.
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When the verdict was read, Andrade put his hand to his chin and wiped his goatee. Zapata’s family let out an audible gasp.
The eight-man, four-woman jury got the case about 12:30 p.m. after four days of testimony.
Before sentencing, Zapata’s mother, Maria Zapata, addressed the court, barely able to speak at times through tears.
“Mr. Andrade has the opportunity to have his family talk to him, to see him, to write to him,” she said. “He didn’t give me that opportunity with my baby. He took my baby away from me in a selfish act. But there is something that he can never take away is the love and the memories my family and I have of my baby, my beautiful, beautiful baby.”
Andrade’s sister Christina Cruz also addressed the court, saying it was a “very tragic thing that happened” and that Andrade has a family, too.
“My brother is human,” Cruz said. “We love my brother. We’re not supporting the outcome, but we do support him as my brother.”
As District Judge Marcelo Kopcow handed down the sentence, he told Andrade that he hopes “that you every day think about the violence and the brutality that you caused on this fellow human being and the pain you caused not only your family but the family of Angie Zapata.”
Prosecutors presented evidence that tied Andrade to the crime scene and played recorded jail conversations where he referred to Zapata as “it” and said it wasn’t as if he “killed a straight, law-abiding citizen.”
“His own statements in the jail call betray the way he values Angie’s life, the way he thought of her as less than, less than us because of who she was,” Chief Deputy District Attorney Robb Miller told jurors.
“Everyone deserves equal protection under the law, and no one deserves to die like this,” Miller said.
Prosecutors said Zapata was beaten so severely that investigators couldn’t determine how many times she was hit. They argued that shows Andrade acted with deliberation when he killed her.
Prosecutors also said the evidence shows Andrade knew Zapata’s biological gender long before the beating. They said Andrade had attended a court hearing with Zapata where court officials used her legal name, Justin, and that a witness testified that when Zapata spoke, she sounded like a man trying to disguise his voice.
The defense argued that Andrade and Zapata agreed to meet for sex after Zapata deceptively described herself as a straight female, and that Andrade snapped when he discovered Zapata was a man.
“This is not something that people plan for,” defense attorney Annette Kundelius told jurors. “This isn’t a situation where people know how they would act.”
She asked jurors to consider the lowest possible charge, criminally negligent homicide.
Kundelius said Andrade’s statements were jokes made by a man who knew he was innocent.
“Was it in poor taste, was it a smart thing to say?” Kundelius asked jurors. “No. But it doesn’t mean he committed murder.”
During a tearful news conference, Gonzalo Zapata, Angie Zapata’s older brother, described his sister as strong and courageous for living as a woman and said Andrade will never understand how angry and hurt the family is as at her death.
“Only a monster can look at a beautiful 18-year-old and beat her to death,” he said.
“The message was sent loud and clear that crimes targeting LGBT people will not be tolerated in Colorado, specifically in Weld County.”
Gay rights activists hope publicity from the case will pressure Congress to add sexual orientation and gender identity to a federal hate crime law. That would allow the FBI and other federal agencies to investigate crimes against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people. Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck said after the sentencing that he supports such bias-motivated laws.
“If somebody acts in a way intended to cause fear, that’s a special crime that deserves more punishment and a higher level of prosecution,” Buck said. “I hope others would see the law in a similar way, not see it as imparting special privileges to a certain group.”