Longform

Who was Angie Zapata? Her murderer's trial didn't tell the whole story.

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"Finally, I just gave up," she says. "I thought, why am I putting my baby through misery? She's miserable enough as it is. I told her, 'Please just be careful. Be careful, because there are going to be people who won't accept it, and you're going to get hurt, baby.'"

Maria's own family — her mother was from Mexico, her father from Texas — had a hard time accepting Angie. "Growing up in the Mexican culture, woman is woman and man is man," Maria says. Maria's aunts and uncles "weren't rude to her, but the staring, the talking behind her back, that hurt my baby a lot. And that hurt me."

When Angie was in high school, she transferred from Fort Lupton High School to Brighton Collegiate High School, a charter school, in an attempt to escape the teasing. But it wasn't any better in Brighton, Maria says. Angie still got harassed, still got into fights, still had to defend herself. At sixteen, she decided to drop out.

"She wanted to do so much with her life, but because...people would not accept her and people were rude to her, she just didn't want to do it anymore," Maria says.

Instead, she went to work, first at Good Times and then as a babysitter for her sister Monica's kids. She wanted to save money to have a sex change, her mother says. Angie even saw a doctor in Denver, who explained to her about the counseling involved and what it's like to do hormone therapy. "But everything cost so much," Maria says. "If we would have been able to afford it, Angie would have been able to have that."

Early last year, Angie moved to Greeley, where Maria lives. She got a one-bedroom apartment two and a half blocks away. She wanted to try living on her own. Mother and daughter were close, but Angie didn't tell Maria everything. Maria knew Angie had tons of friends and dated occasionally. She knew she wanted a companion.

That's what Maria thinks led Angie to Allen Andrade.

"She wanted to be loved so much she was willing to trust people that she thought were trustworthy," Maria says. "That was a hard lesson. Somebody like that, she probably thought that he was honest and he wanted a relationship."

Maria blames herself for Angie's death. She goes over and over it in her head: If only she hadn't lent Angie the car. If only she had looked out the window to see who was with Angie when she returned. If only Angie had been living with her, and not in her own apartment. Maria's other children tell her to stop, to leave Greeley and be closer to them in Fort Lupton. But Maria can't leave. She can't leave Angie. "There's times I would feel her presence here," she says. "I can even smell her. That's how much I miss her.

"When I go to work, I have to come back home, rush back home to be with her," she adds. "I don't want to leave her alone. I say, 'I'm here, baby, I'm here. I'm home.'"

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Melanie Asmar is a staff writer for Westword. She joined the paper in 2009 and has won awards for her stories about education, immigration and epic legal battles. Got a tip? She'd love to hear it.
Contact: Melanie Asmar