A police investigator told Weld County jurors today what he saw when he responded to Angie Zapata's 400-square-foot Greeley apartment on July 17, the day after she allegedly was beaten to death by Allen Andrade.
Andrade is accused of killing Zapata because she was a transgender female.
Today was the first full day of Andrade's first-degree murder trial, and testimony is scheduled to end at 4 p.m. because of bad weather.
Investigator Clay Buckingham described the blood splatter around the victim's head and said Zapata's forehead appeared to be concaved and bashed in.
Prosecutors also showed a 20-minute video of the crime scene and produced autopsy photos of Zapata, but Judge Marcelo Kopcow ruled they would only be seen by the jury.
Testimony this afternoon is slated to include Ashley Zapata, Angie's sister.
GREELEY — A man who told his girlfriend “gay things must die” — as he sat in jail accused of bludgeoning an 18-year-old transgender woman to death with his fists and a fire extinguisher — was laughing and joking and didn’t really mean it, a defense attorney told jurors Thursday as the trial of Allen Andrade got under way. “This case is not about a judgment of lifestyle,” public defender Bradley Martin said in opening remarks. “This case is about a deception and the reaction to that deception.”
Andrade, 32, killed Angie Zapata in a fit of rage last summer after discovering she was transgender, Martin argued, urging jurors to reject first-degree murder and hate crime charges in the brutal slaying. “Allen [Andrade] had no idea until right before he started hitting this person that the person he thought was a she was actually a he,” Martin said in the Greeley courtroom of Weld County District Court Judge Marcelo Kopcow.
Attorneys spent two and a half days selecting a jury of 10 men and four women — including two alternates, who won’t be designated until the trial has concluded — before beginning testimony in the landmark case, the first in the nation to charge a bias-motivated, or hate crime in the murder of a transgender victim. Colorado is among 11 states and the District of Columbia that include protection for transgender victims in hate-crime statutes.
Quoting from transcripts of jailhouse telephone calls Andrade made to girlfriends, Nieto drove home the prosecution’s contention that Andrade committed a hate crime when he pounded a fire extinguisher against Zapata’s head, crushing her skull and leaving her “bloody, stiff and swollen on the floor,” covered with a blanket, the way Zapata’s sister discovered her the next day.
“It’s not like I went up to a school teacher and shot her in the head or killed a straight, law-abiding citizen,” Andrade told a girlfriend on the phone from jail. Another time Andrade disparaged a “pink-shirt wearing motherfucker,” and said “gay things must die.”
“The evidence will show someone who abhors homosexuals,” Nieto said. “Someone who hates transgenders and killed Angie because of it.”
Andrade’s defense attorney, however, pointed to the same calls as evidence his client could hardly believe he stood accused of a hate crime. Andrade and his girlfriend “are laughing and joking during the whole thing,” Martin said, as the two appreciate the absurdity that Andrade is “being held in custody on a bias-motivated crime charge he knows he didn’t commit.”
Jurors won’t hear evidence that Andrade belonged to a homophobic street gang that threatens to kill members who have had homosexual sex. Last month, the trial judge threw out testimony prosecutors had hoped to introduce that Andrade feared for his life after having oral sex with Zapata so decided to kill her to save face with his gang.
Both sides agree Andrade stole a car, credit card, purses and a cell phone from Zapata, and are only asking the jury to decide whether he killed her after deliberation or in a rage — and whether he killed her because she was transgender. It could mean the difference between a sentence of life without the possibility of parole for a first-degree murder conviction or an eight- to 24-year sentence for second-degree murder. Conviction on Colorado’s hate-crimes law could add three years to Andrade’s sentence.
In December, prosecutors filed habitual criminal counts against Andrade, based on prior felony convictions, which could quadruple any sentence he might receive. He also faces automobile theft and identity theft charges.
Andrade has been held without bond since his arrest in July, nearly two weeks after Zapata’s body was discovered on the floor of her Greeley apartment the day after she was murdered. Police arrested Andrade sitting outside his Thornton apartment blasting the stereo in a stolen car that belonged to Zapata’s sister. The accused killer told police he met Zapata on an Internet dating site and spent the night with her. Andrade said he received oral sex from Zapata but didn’t discover she was transgender until the next day when photographs he’d seen in her apartment raised his suspicions.
Zapata smiled at him and said, “I’m all woman” when he grabbed at her crotch and felt a penis, throwing him into a rage, Andrade told police. He admitted knocking Zapata to the ground and then bashing her head with a fire extinguisher. Andrade told police he thought he had “killed it,” according to court documents. While cleaning the apartment to remove traces of his presence, Andrade struck her again with the fire extinguisher when she made a “gurgling” noise and tried to sit up, before fleeing with her possessions, including the fire extinguisher.
When Andrade called Zapata “it,” the defense attorney said in opening remarks, he was simply exhibiting the same natural confusion many felt about the transgender teen, who had been living as a woman for years. “You’re also going to hear [Andrade] refer to Justin as an ‘it,’ ” Martin told jurors, using Zapata’s birth name as he did nearly every time he called the victim by name. Even police got confused, the lawyer said, adding, “Their own police reports switched back and forth between referring to Justin as a he and as a she.” Martin didn’t say whether police ever called the victim “it.”
Jurors likely won’t hear most of the account Andrade gave police the night he was arrested because Kopcow threw out most of Andrade’s confession obtained after he told investigators he wanted to stop talking.
Prosecutors plan to tell a different story, Nieto said. Phone records show the two exchanged nearly 700 calls and text messages in the week before Zapata’s murder, perhaps because Zapata was looking for a roommate. And though the two spent plenty of time in the close quarters of Zapata’s tiny apartment, Nieto said prosecutors plan to introduce DNA evidence proving Zapata didn’t engage in any sexual activity prior to her murder.
The day before she was killed, Andrade accompanied Zapata to municipal court and was there when they called the case, Greeley vs. Justin Zapata, Nieto said, putting into question Andrade’s claim he only discovered she was transgender the moment before he started pummeling her. Prosecutors plan to call court officials to testify that Zapata often showed up for traffic court with her sister or other women, so Andrade’s presence set off a round of “office gossip,” Nieto said. “Everyone knew Angie was transgender,” she said, and the presence of Andrade at her side set tongues wagging.
Perhaps Zapata brought a man with her to court, Andrade’s defense attorney countered in his opening statement, but it wasn’t his client. “None of them is going to point to Allen Andrade and say, ‘That’s the man that was here,’” Martin said.
The trial is scheduled to run through next Friday, though the judge warned jurors a brewing snowstorm could cancel court this Friday. Defense attorneys indicated Andrade will take the stand to testify in his own defense, which could happen Thursday if the trial stays on schedule.
Gay-rights and anti-violence groups have focused on the trial, hoping to bring attention to dangers faced by transgender people and others with different gender identities. A publicity campaign launched last week includes a Web site devoted to Zapata, transgender issues and a call for Congress to pass the Matthew Shepard Act which would strengthen federal hate-crime laws.
Progress Now Colorado paid for an ad featuring Zapta’s family and the slogan “End Hate” that ran in 22 newspapers across the state last week. The group is also sponsoring a visit to Greeley by transgender blogger Autumn Sandeen, who has been covering the Zapata trial via Twitter.
GREELEY, Colo. — A man accused of killing an 18-year-old transgender woman knew she was biologically male for at least 36 hours and beat her to death with a fire extinguisher because he didn't like that fact, a prosecutor insisted Thursday.
But an attorney for Allen Andrade, 32, said the case is about the woman's deception and Andrade's reaction to that deception, not whether victim Angie Zapata's lifestyle was right or wrong.
"This girl that he had just spent the last day with, was in fact a man, and Allen snapped," defense attorney Bradley Martin declared in opening statements.
Andrade is accused of killing Zapata in July in this northern Colorado community.
He faces several charges, including first-degree murder and a bias-motivated crime, which could add three years to any prison sentence. He would face a mandatory life sentence if convicted of first-degree murder and eight to 24 years if convicted of second-degree murder.
"The reason that he did this was because she was transgender and he didn't like that," said prosecutor Brandi Nieto.
"Regardless of who Angie Zapata was, nobody deserved to die like this."
Nieto told jurors that Andrade and Zapata had communicated nearly 700 times via text message, cell phone and computer between July 12 and July 16 as Zapata was apparently searching for a roommate. She said Andrade did not make a snap decision but rather decided to kill Zapata after the pair spent hours in Zapata's tiny one-bedroom apartment.
Andrade could have walked away once he learned Zapata was biologically male, Nieto said.
"Angie was possibly looking for a roommate. Perhaps it was the defendant who was looking for more," Nieto argued.
Martin, who repeatedly referred to Zapata as "Justin," said the deception started with Zapata's profile on a social networking site that said she was a straight female.
The two met July 15 and spent the day together, Martin said. Martin said there was no indication at the apartment that Zapata was a man, saying its details, including her clothing, indicated she was female.
"Even Justin's apartment smelled like a female," Martin said.
Andrade told investigators that Zapata performed oral sex on him but wouldn't let him touch her, according to an arrest affidavit.
After spending the night at her apartment, Zapata left Andrade alone, and Andrade noticed several photographs that led him to question Zapata's gender. When he later confronted Zapata, she answered: "I am all woman," according to the affidavit.
Presiding District Judge Marcelo Kopcow last month threw out part of Andrade's confession, saying police didn't honor his request to remain silent 39 minutes into his interrogation. Partial transcripts of tape-recorded jail calls in which Andrade allegedly told his girlfriend that he "snapped" and that "gay things need to die" were shown to jurors by Nieto.
Nieto also showed jurors a partial transcript of a jailhouse phone conversation where Andrade downplays the slaying.
"It's not like I went up to a school teacher and shot her in the head, or killed a straight law-abiding citizen," Andrade said, according to the transcript.
Martin said the jail calls were taken out of context as Andrade joked with his girlfriend about a crime he knew he didn't commit.
Andrade was arrested July 30, nearly two weeks after Zapata's sisters, Monica and Ashley, discovered her body under a blanket in her apartment. Andrade told investigators that he struck Zapata twice in the head with a fire extinguisher and thought he had "killed it" before striking her again as she struggled to get up, the arrest affidavit said.
Andrade is believed to be the first person tried for a hate crime under the sexual orientation section of Colorado's hate crime law, according to the New York and Los Angeles-based Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, or GLAAD. Colorado is one of 11 states to have such designations in their laws, GLAAD says.
Gay rights activists hope the case raises awareness for adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the federal hate crime law, which would allow the FBI and other federal agencies to investigate crimes against gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people.
Prosecutors also have filed a habitual offender charge against Andrade, who has five felony convictions, according to court records. That charge could add decades to any sentence.