Published August 03, 2010
TEXAS-- The fight over a deceased Wharton firefighter's $600,000 estate is heating up.
Thomas Araguz's transgendered widow, Nikki Araguz, is asking a judge to throw out a lawsuit filed by the firefighter's family that would keep her from receiving widow benefits.
Thomas Araguz died July 4th fighting an egg farm fire in Boling. Araguz and her legal team believe they're winning the legal fight and want to dismiss allegations she's a fraud.
For weeks Araguz has been telling the world she and her husband had an honest marriage.
Now she's offering what she calls proof her husband knew she was born a man soon after they met in church in 2007.
It's a supposed email exchange between the couple on the day Nikki had her sex change operation in Colorado.
Thomas Araguz purportedly writes, "What can i say to make you feel better? The only thing I known (sic) is 'I LOVE YOU.' Trevor and Tyler miss you dearly, they love you with all their little heats. (sic) Today has been a hell of day, would you agree? After taking (sic) to you, I called my mother and law (sic) to let her known (sic) the good news, about your opt. An (sic) you know she spead (sick) the good news all the world. HEY I TO GO I A HOUSE FIRE. ILU"
Nikki Araguz puportedly writes, "My sweet husband, I LOVE YOU. It has been a day heck and also God answered prayers. I love you so much. We can now move on with the rest of our livrs (sic)...I just got this thing to work somehow and the pain lady came in and gave me morphine...si I am fading fast. You are my best friend, and Praise God fro (sic) you...this is wild that little thing is gone...I think I am supposed to see it for the first timr (sic) tomorrow....Imiss my boys too...Have a great day at school tomorrow...Love you sweet wife, Mrs. Nikki Araguz"
Earlier this year, family attorneys presented Thomas Araguz with a copy of his wife's birth certificate.
They say Araguz stated under oath he didn't know his wife was born a man.
Araguz says she had the sex change operation on October 7, 2008, two months after the couple married.
Texas doesn't recognize same sex marriages and says you are what you're born.
But in a motion to throw out the case, Nikki's attorneys say at the very least she had what amounts to a common law marriage.
They cite a change in state law that took effect last year. It recognizes, they say, a sex change as a form of identification for the purpose of marriage.
"She has a legal and informal marriage since September 2, 2009 up until the day her husband was taken," said Phyllis Frye, Nikki's attorney.
An attorney for the firefighter's family, Chad Ellis, says the law mentions nothing about allowing someone to legally change gender.
Instead Ellis says it was designed for someone like Nikki who was born a man to apply for a marriage license to marry a female.
Ellis says the argument is irrelevant because at the time of the marriage there was no court order in place relating to the sex change of Justin Purdue/Nikki Araguz.
"This is less about money than it is about the civil rights of my husband and I to legally be recognized as we recognize each other," said Araguz.
Records from 2009 show Thomas Araguz designated Nikki the beneficiary of a nearly $60,000 pension fund.
Family attorneys don't have a problem releasing that money but anything more will have to be argued in court.
Both sides believe the law is on their side.