GREELEY, Colo. – A man accused of killing an 18-year-old transgender woman knew she was biologically male for at least 36 hours and beat her to death with a fire extinguisher because he didn't like that fact, a prosecutor insisted Thursday.
But an attorney for Allen Andrade, 32, said the case is about the woman's deception and Andrade's reaction to that deception, not whether victim Angie Zapata's lifestyle was right or wrong.
"This girl that he had just spent the last day with, was in fact a man, and Allen snapped," defense attorney Bradley Martin declared in opening statements.
Andrade is accused of killing Zapata in July in this northern Colorado community.
He faces several charges, including first-degree murder and a bias-motivated crime, which could add three years to any prison sentence. He would face a mandatory life sentence if convicted of first-degree murder and eight to 24 years if convicted of second-degree murder.
"The reason that he did this was because she was transgender and he didn't like that," said prosecutor Brandi Nieto.
"Regardless of who Angie Zapata was, nobody deserved to die like this."
Nieto told jurors that Andrade and Zapata had communicated nearly 700 times via text message, cell phone and computer between July 12 and July 16 as Zapata was apparently searching for a roommate. She said Andrade did not make a snap decision but rather decided to kill Zapata after the pair spent hours in Zapata's tiny one-bedroom apartment.
Andrade could have walked away once he learned Zapata was biologically male, Nieto said.
"Angie was possibly looking for a roommate. Perhaps it was the defendant who was looking for more," Nieto argued.
Martin, who repeatedly referred to Zapata as "Justin," said the deception started with Zapata's profile on a social networking site that said she was a straight female.
The two met July 15 and spent the day together, Martin said. Martin said there was no indication at the apartment that Zapata was a man, saying its details, including her clothing, indicated she was female.
"Even Justin's apartment smelled like a female," Martin said.
Andrade told investigators that Zapata performed oral sex on him but wouldn't let him touch her, according to an arrest affidavit.
After spending the night at her apartment, Zapata left Andrade alone, and Andrade noticed several photographs that led him to question Zapata's gender. When he later confronted Zapata, she answered: "I am all woman," according to the affidavit.
Presiding District Judge Marcelo Kopcow last month threw out part of Andrade's confession, saying police didn't honor his request to remain silent 39 minutes into his interrogation. Partial transcripts of tape-recorded jail calls in which Andrade allegedly told his girlfriend that he "snapped" and that "gay things need to die" were shown to jurors by Nieto.
Nieto also showed jurors a partial transcript of a jailhouse phone conversation where Andrade downplays the slaying.
"It's not like I went up to a school teacher and shot her in the head, or killed a straight law-abiding citizen," Andrade said, according to the transcript.
Martin said the jail calls were taken out of context as Andrade joked with his girlfriend about a crime he knew he didn't commit.
Andrade was arrested July 30, nearly two weeks after Zapata's sisters, Monica and Ashley, discovered her body under a blanket in her apartment. Andrade told investigators that he struck Zapata twice in the head with a fire extinguisher and thought he had "killed it" before striking her again as she struggled to get up, the arrest affidavit said.
Andrade is believed to be the first person tried for a hate crime under the sexual orientation section of Colorado's hate crime law, according to the New York and Los Angeles-based Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, or GLAAD. Colorado is one of 11 states to have such designations in their laws, GLAAD says.
Gay rights activists hope the case raises awareness for adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the federal hate crime law, which would allow the FBI and other federal agencies to investigate crimes against gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people.
Prosecutors also have filed a habitual offender charge against Andrade, who has five felony convictions, according to court records. That charge could add decades to any sentence.