The 2008 murder of Angie Zapata, a transgender teen from Greeley, stands as both a horrifying example of violence targeting the LGBTQ community and a precedent-setting case for federal hate-crime laws. Now, Angie's story, which we've told in a shattering Westword feature and numerous follow-up posts, is going national by way of "Lost Angel," an episode of the Investigation Discovery series Murder Calls that debuts tonight, July 10. See a preview below.
Former Westword staffer Melanie Asmar, who currently covers Denver Public Schools for the education news website Chalkbeat, dug deep into Angie's story, live-blogging the April 2009 trial of Allen Andrade, the man who killed her, and contextualizing the case and its importance in the May 2009 article "Who Was Angie Zapata? Her Murderer's Trial Didn't Tell the Whole Story."
As Asmar wrote, those who followed the proceedings against Andrade, who was eventually sentenced to life plus sixty years for his crime, knew the particulars of her murder — "how two of her sisters found her on July 17, , lying on the carpeted living-room floor of her one-bedroom apartment in Greeley, her stiff body covered with a bloodstained blanket. How three days earlier, she'd borrowed her mother's car to pick up a guy in Thornton. How she hadn't told friends or family who he was."
Andrade, the man in question, was "an unemployed 31-year-old who Angie had met on the social networking website MocoSpace," Asmar continued. "Andrade spent three days with Angie, and on the third day, Angie went to babysit her sister Monica's three kids. After that, according to court testimony, Angie stopped by a friend's apartment in Greeley. She told her friend there was an older guy staying with her and that she was going to get him to help her pay one of her bills. Then, she said, she was going to kick him out."
The day of Angie's death, Andrade had hung out at Angie's apartment, and as Asmar noted, he "later told police that he'd begun to grow suspicious of Angie's gender after looking at the photographs that decorated her neat living room. That night, he said, he confronted her about it. Andrade asked Angie to prove it. She refused. So he did it himself, grabbing her crotch. He felt a penis, he later told the police, and reacted by beating her with his fists until she fell down. Then he grabbed a fire extinguisher from the kitchen wall and hit her twice in the head. After that, he covered her with a blanket and began cleaning up."
But Angie wasn't dead. "Andrade told the police he heard gurgling sounds coming from underneath the blanket and saw her struggling to sit up," Asmar revealed. "So he hit her in the head with the fire extinguisher once more. Then he grabbed his stuff and fled."
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Such details are only the beginning of Asmar's piece, however. The article is dominated by conversations with many of those who loved Angie, including her mother, Maria; her brother, Gonzalo; her sister, Stephanie Villalobos; and her friend and mentor, Kitty de Leon — all of whom participate in "Lost Angel." Their reminiscences reveal how a boy born Justin Zapata transformed into Angie, a woman of great style and promise whose life was cruelly stolen — but whose memory and influence lives on.
Photos of Angie, a documentary about the case, was streamed on Hulu back in 2012, during a period when the service wasn't the powerhouse it is today. The Murder Calls offering will arguably give the Angie Zapata story its widest national exposure to date.
The "Lost Angel" episode airs at 8 p.m. Mountain time tonight on Investigation Discovery, which Comcast XFINITY users can find at Channel 271 and HD 791. Here's a preview.