By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
On April 22, Allen Andrade, an unemployed 32-year-old who had spent time in prison for a string of non-violent crimes, was convicted of first-degree murder for beating to death eighteen-year-old Angie Zapata of Greeley. A striking beauty, Angie was born a boy named Justin David Zapata but had been living as a woman for several years. She and Andrade had met sometime before the murder on the social networking website MocoSpace and spent three days together before he killed her.
Colorado is one of eleven states with hate-crime laws that protect transgender people, and gay-rights advocates believe that Andrade is the first person in the country to be convicted of a hate crime for murdering a transgender person.
By deciding that hatred had motivated Andrade to kill, the jury rejected his lawyers' argument that he had "snapped" after figuring out that Angie was biologically male — a violent response to a shocking lie, not murder.
While the most important questions were answered in the courtroom, many smaller ones — little mysteries that may never be solved — were left open. Some are broader in scope, while others focus on unexplained details. Here, we look at seven of them.
Q: Was Angie working as a prostitute?
A: Defense attorneys say she was. Her friends and family say no way.
Before trial, defense attorneys asked if they could question Angie's former roommate, J.J. Alejandro, about whether she "performed sexual favors for money with Hispanic males from 'Spanish' bars." They said Alejandro — a platonic friend who lived with Angie for three months last year — knew about specific instances of sex for pay and knew that the Hispanic males "believed the alleged victim was a biological female."
In a March ruling, Judge Marcelo Kopcow said the question of whether Angie was a prostitute was irrelevant to the case.
Alejandro didn't respond to a request to be interviewed for this story, but Angie's friends say there's no way she was working as a prostitute. As proof, they point to her swagger and say she respected herself too much.
She also didn't need the money, some say. "She worked at Good Times as a manager, and then her sister was paying her rent and giving her money. And then she had a roommate. So why would she need to make more money?" asks Kitty DeLeon, a transgender woman who acted as Angie's male-to-female mentor. "I told her that there's trannies that do that, and I don't want you to do that. You go live a regular life."
But friends and family admit that in the months before she died, they didn't know much about Angie's life. She'd moved to Greeley and was living in her own apartment, away from most of her family for the first time. She had new friends and new hangouts.
"When she went to Greeley, I cried," says childhood friend Rochelle Camacho. "I called her and I cried and said, 'We don't even talk anymore'.... We became a little distant, and that's what hurts me the most. I wish we weren't distant when she passed."
Friends and family say Angie wanted to save for school — and eventually maybe a sex change — but had a hard time hanging on to cash. "She tried saving money, but somehow she couldn't save it," says another childhood friend, Felecia Luna. She'd see a cute outfit or purse, and the money was as good as gone.
Mercedes Ponderelli, a friend of Angie's from Greeley, says money is why Angie took on a roommate. There may have been a joke going around that Angie was going to prostitute for money, but that's all it was — a joke. To her knowledge, Angie never did that. "Angie wanted to find someone to love her," Ponderelli says.
Is Allen Andrade in a gang?
Prosecutors and police say he is. He hasn't admitted it.
According to a police report, Andrade has been a known member of the Hispanic Sureño 13 gang since 2000. And he was charged twice with rioting in a detention facility for his involvement in two gang-related fights at the Weld County Jail in Greeley, where he was locked up while awaiting trial. (Those charges have since been dropped, as Andrade has already been sentenced to life without parole plus sixty years in prison, says Weld County Chief Deputy District Attorney Robb Miller, who prosecuted the murder case against Andrade.)
The first fight happened in September, two months after Andrade was arrested for Angie's murder. According to a police report, a fight broke out between two inmates, both of whom are Sureño gang members. Corrections officers responded by deploying "chemical agents." They also ordered all of the nearby inmates to return to their cells.
But Andrade and several others didn't obey. The report says Andrade "joined in the fight," assisting gang member Johnny "Whisper" Hernandez, who was in jail on charges that he murdered his infant daughter.
In January, Andrade disobeyed again. When another gang-related fight broke out, he refused to return to his cell and continued to stand nearby. "Although his involvement in the second riot appears nominal," wrote Officer Michael Prill of the Greeley Police Department's gang unit, "his tacit involvement was supportive of the Sureños" and was an "additional diversion to jail staff dealing with a dangerous situation."