Those who followed last month's trial of the man who murdered eighteen-year-old Angie Zapata know a lot about what her life was like on July 14, 15 and 16 of last year.
They know 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.
That guy was Allen Andrade, an unemployed 31-year-old whom Angie had met on the social networking website MocoSpace. 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.
Andrade had spent the day alone in Angie's apartment and 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.
"I am all woman," Angie told him.
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. So he hit her in the head with the fire extinguisher once more. Then he grabbed his stuff and fled.
Those are the grisly details of Angie's murder, the ones that made her family sob in the courtroom, that prosecutors diagrammed, that defense attorneys tried to rebut — that a jury used to convict Andrade of murder. But these details only describe the end of Angie's life. They don't reveal what she meant to friends and family or answer questions about who Angie was before she met Andrade and how she found herself with him.
What follows are vignettes from five people who knew her, from the time she was a little boy named Justin to the evolution that turned her into a confident, sassy and fun young woman named Angie — a brave young woman who was looking for love.
Rochelle Camacho, childhood friend
In first grade, he was "Jus." Justin David Zapata was Rochelle Camacho's funny, energetic friend, the one who got her a Barbie doll for her birthday and climbed trees with her in her back yard. The one who had a crush on the same boy that she did.
"We had two friendship rings, and I was like, 'Let's drop our rings in front of him and whomever's he picks up first, that's who he likes,'" recalls Camacho, now twenty. She remembers Justin as feminine, but in elementary school, that didn't really matter.
It became a problem at Fort Lupton Middle School. By that time, Justin had told his friends that he liked boys. "We started laughing, because we were like, 'Girl, you didn't even need to tell us that,'" Camacho says.
Other kids weren't so understanding, and they whispered behind his back, especially after he started growing out his thick, black hair. Camacho remembers one time when they were at TJ's, the local convenience store in tiny Fort Lupton, where they'd walk to buy chili-and-cheese nachos. They ran into a group of girls from school, and Justin told her they didn't like him because he liked boys. "I got so mad, because she told me that they had said something to her or given looks to her," Camacho says. "I threw my makeup at them."
It wasn't long after that that Justin made another confession. One day he came over to her house with girl's clothing and a tube of mascara. He changed out of his sweatpants and T-shirt and transformed into Angie. "I loved her so much, I didn't care," Camacho says. "I was like, 'Hell, yeah. If that's what you want to wear, let's wear it.'"
At first, Justin kept Angie under wraps. At school, he was Justin. But after school, for a few precious hours in the safety of friends' homes, he was Angie, a name he picked simply because he liked it, because he thought it sounded sexy to say "Angelica" in Spanish. People in Fort Lupton talked. But, Camacho says, it came to matter less and less.