DENVER -- Colorado State District Judge Marcel Kopcow passed sentence less than two hours after Allen Ray Andrade, 32, was found guilty by a Weld County jury of first-degree murder and a hate crime. The jury deliberated for about two hours before handing down its verdict in the death of 18-year-old Angie Zapata, who was born Justin Zapata but lived as a female.
The case is believed to be the first in the nation to apply the hate-crimes statute to a murder case involving a transgender victim.
Maria Zapata, the victim's mother, wept as she spoke during the sentencing portion of the trial.
"He took my baby away from me in this selfish act," said Maria Zapata in footage shot by KUSA-TV, the local NBC affiliate. "I lost somebody so precious As a mom, it hurts so bad."
Andrade's defense attorneys never challenged his guilt in the murder, but insisted he had no idea Angie Zapata was a biological male and that he flew into a rage after making the discovery. The defense had pushed for a lesser finding of negligent homicide or manslaughter.
"When he learned Angie was in fact Justin and was a male, he immediately reacted to that ," said Annette Kundelius in the trial's opening statement. "He had been deceived and he reacted."
But prosecutor Robb Miller argued that Andrade knew the victim was biologically male and planned the murder shortly after they met on an Internet dating site frequented by gay, bisexual and transgender singles. The two spent three days together before Andrade beat the victim to death July 16, 2008, with a fire extinguisher in her Greeley apartment.
The prosecution also pointed to phone calls made by Andrade from jail in which he made statements such as, "Gay things must die."
"[I]f he knew she was a biological male, this was nothing less than first-degree murder," said Mr. Miller during the trial.
The Human Rights Campaign praised the jury for the verdict and commended Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck for prosecuting Andrade under the hate-crimes statute.
"We owe the jury a debt of gratitude for seeing through the shameful 'trans panic' defense which attempted to blame the victim for this heinous crime," said HRC president Joe Solmonese in a statement. "The murder of Angie Zapata, just 18 years old, is a tragic reminder of the hate and ignorance that threatens the transgender community every day."
Christina Cruz, Andrade's sister, spoke on behalf of her brother. "My brother is human and I love my brother," she said. "We're not supporting the outcome, but we do support my brother."